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Mansfield Electric's Success May Hurt in the Long Run

Success of municipal electric departments like Mansfield Electric spurs new legislation that could threaten current municipal programs.

By Jeff Sullivan April 19, 2012

Director of Mansfield Electric Gary Babin said that the success of municipal power, like the Mansfield Electric Department, during tropical storm Irene and the Haloween winter storm could hurt the department.

Babin said that a proposed bill is gaining ground in the Massachusetts legislature that would allow municipalities to purchase facilities from private providers like NStar and National Grid to start their own municipal power facilities.

"It was a bill that came out back in February in the statehouse," Babin said. "The reason this legislation is gaining legs is because the municipal light departments did such a good job during the Haloween snowstorm and [tropical storm] Irene and got so much positive press and the [private companies] took a pretty big hit that this legislation saw the light of day."

The problem, he said, is that this legislation would require municipal power organizations to adhere to certain mandatory charges.

"We believe that the Department of Energy and Resources went in and loaded [the bill] up with a lot of stuff that would put a lot of mandatory charges on us," Babin said. "They've been trying to get us to pay a lot of mandatory charges for a long time, they haven't had the authority to do that. We belive this provided them an avenue to insert all this language into the proposed law that is detrimental to us."

Babin said that the total charges would come to $2.2 million a year in mandatory charges. "You just look at this and it's shocking," light commissioner Kevin Moran said. "It would take away the benefit of having it."

Babin said that language in the bill would also force service expansion. He added that he has contacted all of Mansfield's state representatives to help combat the bill.

"Efforts are out there to help form municipal light departments," he said. "In doing so, we have to be very careful of the rammifications that might fall back on existing light departments."