McNeil: Nova Scotia Power’s response to Arthur 'unacceptable'

Heather Killen
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Premier Stephen McNeil, along with ministers Andrew Younger, left, and Mark Furey held a press conference in Middleton to discuss Nova Scotia Power’s response to the post-Arthur power outages.  

Premier calls for a priority review

With more than 2,200 people still in the dark after nearly a week, Nova Scotia Power is under review.

Premier Stephen McNeil, along with ministers Leo Glavine, Andrew Younger and Mark Furey, held a press conference in Middleton to discuss Nova Scotia Power’s response to the post-Arthur power outages.  

McNeil is calling for a priority review of Nova Scotia Power and how emergency situations like this one will be handled. The Utility Review Board will release details of this process next week and people will have a chance to have their say.

 “We recognize the hard work by the dedicated crews, but response from Nova Scotia Power was inexcusable,” he said. “We can do better and we believe a priority review is required given the extreme outages and communication challenges.”

While the review is looking at staffing levels and the condition of infrastructure, ensuring residents receive clear and accurate information is also a top priority, according to McNeil.

It’s estimated that of the 2,200 Nova Scotians still without power, 1,342 of them are Valley residents. Pockets of powerless residents are scattered throughout the Valley.

McNeil told reporters that his own family went without electricity for five days and he understands the frustration people are feeling.

Too many people have been left without electricity for far too long. He added that some of the most vulnerable people have been put into potentially dangerous situations.

McNeil said if Nova Scotia Power had provided accurate information to residents, people would have made other decisions to protect food and other necessities for longer periods of time.

“If accurate information had been provided, if people knew what to expect, they would have made other decisions,” he said. “This was a summer storm, so people didn’t prepare the way they would for a winter storm. It caught us by surprise, but it won’t happen again.”

He pointed out that many low-income people lost freezers full of food, as well as their weekly gas allowances, trying to fuel generators or drive to community comfort centers.

"The minister of energy has spoken with the chair of the UARB and they have agreed this requires further investigation to examine Nova Scotia Power's preparedness and response to the storm."

The government is asking for a complete review that will include storm preparedness, staffing levels, the scope of tree-pruning along power lines, the state of infrastructure as well as the company’s communication policies.

Andrew Younger, minister of energy, said that Annapolis County was probably the hardest hit, but so far there are no estimates on how much the damage will cost to repair.

He added that most of the severe damage took place at substations and other key pieces of infrastructure, taking out the electricity in neighbourhood blocks without much apparent damage to powerlines.

He added that one of the major frustrations many people experienced was a lack of information about where power outages were taking place and the inaccurate estimates for restoration times.

Younger said that while he didn’t lose electricity in either his Dartmouth home or his office, Nova Scotia Power included his addresses on their outage list, while people who lost power in other areas were told their service was fine.

"Arthur is the first named storm for 2014, so if there are immediate improvements that can be made, we want them to be done expeditiously," said Younger. "We hold our utility to the highest standards, and we need to understand why it has taken so long to restore power and why people weren't properly informed."

Government is also including other key infrastructure partners, such as Eastlink, Bell Aliant and others, next week to review emergency response efforts.

"Significant storms always carry the risk of infrastructure loss, but we need to identify what can be done to minimize this loss," said Furey. "We'll also be taking a close look at how all organizations responded to the emergency to identify areas for improvement before we're hit with another significant storm."

In response the premier’s announcement this morning, officials at Nova Scotia Power issued a timely response, welcoming a review of their storm preparedness.

 

Organizations: Nova Scotia Power, Utility Review Board, Bell Aliant Emergency Management Office

Geographic location: Middleton, Annapolis County, Dartmouth

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Recent comments

  • DD
    July 15, 2014 - 22:39

    Wake up NSP! Alberta, BC and Manitoba utilities have been recruiting your trades in your own back yard. Fortunate for those men and women, the western utilities know how to reward and retain staff.

  • alex
    July 14, 2014 - 20:31

    my opinion is if the trees that fell belonged to nsp, they should fix the issue, if the trees that fell did not, then the tree owner should pay-

  • kathy silver
    July 14, 2014 - 10:13

    my power went out on sat, during this time I was told it would be many different times and days, on tues trucks were around and all around me got power, we live south of Berwick, I still did not have power so I called and they told me I was not high priority because there was only 28 of us, you have to be 100 or more people, if I was not paying my bill I would be on the high priority list for them to come after me. After I was talking to them on Tues. I was trying to call them to see when the power would be back and all I got was the number was not in service, it was like they blocked me, a friend of mine called from her phone and got right through. We got power Wed. evening for 2 hours but because I could not get them on the phone I could not report it. We ended up with power on Thurs. afternoon, of course all our food is in the green bin.

  • Philippe Frigault
    July 14, 2014 - 07:52

    TOP PRIORITY MR PREMIER: are you going to come with a plan to help people who lost all their food, simple question, what is YOUR ANSWER.

  • Douglas
    July 13, 2014 - 21:55

    The interesting thing, that Nova Scotia power "Union" Sent message (can read on Facebook /Atlantic hurricane center page) BEFORE the storm, saying because NS power planning to cut back and planning to lay down 167 Union workers, the coming storm power outage will take much longer to fixed than usual! So this is why people left without power for week? Just because the union flexing their muscle - though Noone was laid off yet! That's despicable!

  • Craig G
    July 13, 2014 - 15:05

    Everybody knows that Stephen McNeil is in cahoots with Nova Scotia Power. His campaign was deliberately deceptive and he has done nothing to alter the relationship the province has to NSP-- if anything, he is making sure that they keep their pockets padded thick! He's just hopping on the bandwagon on this one praying that he can get the Liberals out of this mess they've made for themselves...

  • Concerned but hoping for better service
    July 11, 2014 - 17:18

    Glad the premier agrees with all Nova Scotian's. We've know of these issues since having to pay more. Resulting in NS Power filling their pockets but laying off linesman. Why are other energy companies not allowed to operate in Nova Scotia. I was once a Bullfrog Power paying customer but, having to pay bullfrog to use NS Power sources. While still having to pay my monthly NS power bill, it became to much of a bill. I hope that other energy companies like Bullfrog are allowed to send applications to the UARB. We deserve more say when choosing energy sources.

    • R. Swicker
      July 12, 2014 - 07:39

      Of course the premier agrees...he'll agree publicly with anything that resonates with Nova Scotians to gain their support. Whether or not he, Mr. Younger, or the rest of the Liberals will actually do anything is another story.

    • Concerned but hoping
      July 13, 2014 - 23:23

      I agree with your point, the premier (No matter their party) would say anything. Even if in this instance 90% of the blame is with NSP management. Lets have all voting nova scotian's hold our own public inquiry on what should be done with NSP management. That's the only productive way to resolve this major issue.