We Had Storm Isaias: What Now?
Posted on August 22, 2020 by Admin
Tropical Storm Isaias left over 700,000 Connecticut residents without power during a pandemic, a heat wave, and a period when countless people were working at home, or not at all, due to the economic fallout from COVID-19. Power restoration took a very long time, leaving some households without electricity for more than a week. Many customers felt abandoned, even abused, by Eversource’s failure to communicate facts and restoration times. The situation was unacceptable. The experience left its mark, and people all over the state want to see action.
I'd like to share with you what’s planned, what I think is likely to happen, and what I’d like to see done on your behalf.
What happens next?
The first thing planned, right away, is a series of public hearings. As we all know, hearings don't fix things, but they are still essential for bringing facts to light. Regulators, utilities, and legislators, need to hear directly about customer issues.
Before the storm, the CT Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) had already scheduled an August 24 public hearing on Eversource's midsummer rate increase, which PURA has suspended pending investigation. That hearing will be a good occasion to make PURA aware of Eversource’s performance after the storm and to question whether a big rate increase is justified. The legislature's Energy and Technology Committee has also scheduled its own hearing on August 27 about electric utility performance after the storm. There will be a third hearing on the performance of United Illuminating (UI), which does not serve our district.
I will be submitting testimony for the PURA hearing, because I believe that if the public's voice is loud enough, it will be heard. As Wilton First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice has said, "It was only by residents taking action, raising their voices and contacting their legislators, that PURA is reconsidering the rate increases."
You’ll find the details of the PURA and Committee hearings below my signature.
September Special Session
There is likely to be a special session in early September, focusing on topics that may include utility performance and response.
The leaders of both parties from the Energy & Technology Committee announced a list of possible legislative measures earlier this week. While I believe we must consider any proposal that would lead to better service from our utilities, some of these measures might be very costly for customers. Most have a range of repercussions and I believe need ample time for discussion and revision. There are, however, measures that might be raised in the special session. One of them that I would support would require Eversource (and UI) to reimburse customers up to $100 per day and a maximum total of $500 for lost food and medication when they’ve had outages longer than 48 hours. Another would increase PURA's civil penalty authority in cases of utilities' performance failure. These and other measures may be on the special session agenda, but I think more complex legislation will likely be delayed until the January regular session.
Advocating for You
After speaking with many of you after the storm, I've identified several priority areas that I believe need urgent attention, and if you elect me to represent you, I will advocate hard on your behalf to make sure they are a high priority.
Holding our internet/cable companies accountable. Altice/Optimum was unreachable for most people for about 10 days and sent technicians on-site who were often not equipped to restore service. Any legislation that is passed needs to include internet/cable providers.
Emergency service for individuals who are infirm or have medical conditions or disabilities. There must be a fail-safe system to preserve communications channels for these individuals and to ensure that they receive priority service, whatever it takes.
Access for town officials and local emergency operations centers. Many town officials had no direct communication with Eversource during the first several days of the outage. This is unacceptable and must not happen again.
Customer communication. Customers are to be served, not ignored or neglected. Eversource must be held to high communications standards, particularly in emergencies, and subject to penalties if it doesn't meet them.
Review of 2012 legislation. Much of what is happening now seems like déjà vu. In 2012, the legislature passed PA 12-148, which set clear standards for electric and gas utilities’ performance during emergencies. We shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel. But we need answers. Did Eversource follow the letter of the law? Was Eversource prepared? Had Eversource properly applied its rate increases over the years to infrastructure and service improvements? Had the regulators exercised proper oversight before the storm? We must hold not only Eversource, but also PURA, accountable. And we must be very clear about the penalties for non-compliance.
In addition to these areas, I am of course very concerned about the state of our utility infrastructure. I am ready to review and discuss all proposals to improve it and want to participate actively in crafting legislation that will ensure progress while giving due consideration to the costs for customers.
I would love to hear your thoughts on these suggestions and any others you may have. I am committed to doing everything I can to help make sure that you never have to undergo another Isaias-type experience. Please contact me if you’d like to discuss this or any other issue.
Upcoming Hearings and How to Testify
PURA HEARING ON EVERSOURCE RATE INCREASE
Monday, August 24 beginning at 10:00 a.m.,
virtual public hearing via Zoom.
PURA officials will be questioning Eversource representatives to determine whether or not the electric distribution company had been over-collecting revenues in the short term at the expense of their customers.
Members of the public may testify in person and/or submit comments in writing. If you want to speak during the hearing, you must register: click here.
Meeting ID #: 927 7463 1605
Watch on Connecticut Network (CT-N).
Submit written testimony through the last day of the hearing to email@example.com.
ENERGY & TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE HEARING ON EVERSOURCE
Thursday, August 27 beginning at 10:30 a.m.,
virtual informational hearing that covers storm management response, delivery rates, initiatives to improve the grid, and investment in powerline workers. Only invited industry, regulatory, and government officials will be speaking. The public is invited to submit written testimony to the Committee.
Watch on Connecticut Network (CT-N).
Submit written testimony to ETtestimony@cga.ct.gov or mail it to the Energy and Technology Committee. Digital submissions should be in Word or PDF format.
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