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Gov eyes underground power lines to protect against storms

February 11, 2013

By Christine McConville / Boston Herald

SCITUATE — Gov. Deval Patrick today called for a sweeping review of the cost to bury power lines underground as the weekend’s storm left tens of thousands of Bay Staters still without electricity and more than 1,500 people still in shelters.

“I am personally very interested in seeing a real analysis done on the cost to bury utilities underground. I know it’s expensive, but I have to believe that with the cost of recovery, the disruption to personal and work lives over time and given the increased frequency of storms of this severity,” it’s worth a review, Patrick said.

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Gov. Deval Patrick, seen here Friday, today called for a sweeping review of the cost
to bury power lines underground after the weekend blizzard left thousands without power.

As of this afternoon, an estimated 120,000 homes and businesses were still without power.

With fiercer weather events predicted, and the state’s history of long-lasting power outages, the governor said, “We need to start thinking long term about how we adjust. Meteorologists are telling us that we’re going to see more storms like this, and so we are going to have to start thinking, long term, about how we address this,” Patrick said from this hard-hit town’s high school, where more than 100 residents rode out the storm.

“If this is the shape of things to come, whether there is some benefit to the cost of putting the utilities underground, and I just wonder whether the utilities have ever done that analysis,” Patrick said later in the day. “I’d be interested to see it.”

Today, Scituate is still reeling from its wrath.

“Mother Nature is a powerful force when she wants to be,” said Patrick who spent the morning touring Scituate’s ravaged coast. “It’s incredible, the amount of debris that has been lifted over the sea walls and left on the access roads and the side streets, I mean tons and tons of beach rocks and sand and stuff.”

Patrick — whose administration just slapped power providers with hefty fines for poor storm responsiveness — said it seems that the utilities are doing a better job getting people’s power back on.

“On the whole, the progress is pretty good,” he said, “but if you are without power, it’s not going fast enough.”