Testimony before the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA)
Docket No. 20-01-01 Comments
August 24, 2020
Posted on August 25, 2020 by Admin
Members of the Authority, thank you for allowing me to submit this testimony regarding Eversource. My name is Patrizia Zucaro, and I live in Westport. I know the purpose of this meeting is to discuss whether or not Eversource has been over-collecting revenues in the short term at the expense of its customers; however, I think it important to discuss what happened in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias, as it may send a message about how the company has been using its revenues.
Isaias resulted in 700,000 residents without power during a pandemic and a heat wave. In some instances, it took an entire week for residents to receive electricity and in some cases, that electricity was not full electricity. To make matters worse, Eversource’s failure to communicate the facts and restoration times left many customers feeling abandoned, some abused, and desperate. This is unacceptable. Residents deserve answers as to how and why this happened.
In 2012, legislation was passed in response to Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy; however, it is clear that those efforts did little to protect and prevent the same issues from happening again. Customers deserve answers:
1. Did Eversource follow the requirements set forth in the law?
2. Was Eversource prepared? Does Eversource have enough local resources to provide safe, quick and efficient restoration services?
3. Has Eversource properly applied its rate increases over the years to infrastructure and service improvements?
4. Did regulators exercise proper oversight before the storm?
5. What penalties will be imposed on Eversource for non-compliance that will prevent mass outages for an extended period of time?
Based on conversations with friends, family, and neighbors, it is clear that we need urgent attention to several complaints.
1. We need to hold Altice/Optimum accountable for their performance during this outage as well. Altice was unreachable for most people for about 10 days and when technicians arrived on-site they were not able to provide restoration services. Any efforts to hold Eversource accountable must include accountability from Altice.
2. Emergency service is critical for individuals who are ill or have medical conditions or disabilities. It is incredible that in 2020 we do not have a fail-safe process in place that would ensure emergency services for these individuals. Certain processes need to be in place to ensure these individuals receive priority service.
3. Direct communication lines for town officials and local emergency operations centers. It is imperative that town officials and local emergency operations have access to information and aid from Eversource during an outage.
4. Customer communication must be a priority. Customers are to be served, not ignored or neglected.
Honestly, I am at a loss for how and why customers were treated the way they were treated during the restoration period. We must demand that our utilities constantly communicate about their efforts, providing updates on their progress, and communicating when power has been restored. I am also shocked that Eversource has insufficient resources and tools to have a clear picture of where power is out, and instead must rely on customers’ communicating to them that they are having power issues. In 2012, the legislature laid down its expectations for Eversource, yet during and after Isaias they were met with utter failure. Customers should be entitled to reimbursements for lost food and medication – or at least a credit on their bills -- when outages last longer than 48 hours. Eversource should be held accountable and face substantial civil penalties.
I hope that you will take my remarks and those of others seriously and that you understand that your responsibility as regulators is to take the measures necessary to ensure that this type of situation never happens again.
World Turns Upside Down