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Fitchburg Statehouse delegation files bill to allow cities to buy out electric companies

February 26, 2021

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City Council President Michael Kushmerek is running for the 3rd Worcester District seat.

BOSTON — Fitchburg’s new legislative delegation is proposing a law that would allow cities like Fitchburg to buy out existing electric companies that provide subpar service and charge customers exorbitant rates, according to a release from the offices of state Rep. Michael Kushmerek and state Sen. John Cronin.

Kushmerek, D-Fitchburg, and Cronin, D-Lunenburg, filed legislation last week to ease the burden for municipalities to buy utility infrastructure from a private provider at a fair market value, according to the release.

“Currently, if a privately run electric company cannot provide reliable service and reasonable rates for customers, there is no recourse for cities and towns. This bill provides a realistic option to convert the utility system into a more affordable, municipally run system,” Kushmerek said.

The proposed law was first filed by former state representative and current Fitchburg Mayor Stephen L. DiNatale, D-Fitchburg, after the 2008 ice storm left local communities with no power for weeks. Unitil drew widespread criticism about the level of service provided to local residents, according to the release.

“Our future economic growth depends on fairly-priced utilities and electricity. It’s important to create options for the region to ensure our utilities are more reasonably priced and there is an ability for a competitive market to exist,” Cronin said.

Under existing state law, cities like Fitchburg can own an electric company and there are currently 20 municipal electric companies in Massachusetts, according to the release.

“An artificial barrier exists,” Kushmerek said, “because underperforming utility companies can refuse to accept a fair market offer to purchase their existing equipment. This bill aims to fix that and place the authority back in the hands of municipalities and their ratepayers.”

“The senator and I realize that many residents and businesses, forced to pay these astronomically-high electric rates, are suffering. Especially in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, our bill aims to provide ratepayers with the relief that they so desperately need,” Kushmerek said.