November 9, 2017

Lawmakers seek public review of Eversource storm response

[This story has been updated with response from Eversource.]

Two Connecticut lawmakers are calling for an informational public forum to examine Eversource Energy's response to the October rain and windstorm that left more than 100,000 residents without power for several days.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) and Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) said they sent a joint letter to legislative leaders on the energy and technology committee asking for the public meeting because "too many customers were left in the dark without adequate communication from Eversource" following the Oct. 29-30 storm.

Duff described some confusion that resulted in New Hampshire, and Connecticut residents receiving automated updates from the wrong state. The review also is warranted in light of the utility's latest request for a three-year rate increase that would raise the average Connecticut consumer's electric bill by nearly 7 percent, Duff said.

Osten noted that reviews like the one being called for "should occur on a regular basis here in Connecticut."

In an emailed response, Eversource Spokesman Mitch Gross said the utility would participate in any review conducted by legislators or regulators. The company understands lawmakers' concerns and how difficult it is for customers to be without power, but the storm was more severe than it might have seemed, he said.

"It's important to note this storm caused significant damage to the electric system, affecting most of the 149 communities we serve," Gross said in an email. "Our lineworkers, contractors, out-of-state mutual aid crews and support staff worked around-the-clock restoring power. In many cases, the damage was extensive and crews had to rebuild parts of the system, which is a time consuming process. We're proud of their commitment to this restoration for our customers."

Gross also acknowledged that the company experienced some technical issues early in the restoration effort, "but those were addressed and resolved as quickly as possible," he said.

He also defended the rate review the company is seeking, saying, "... It is a request to further strengthen the electric system and continue making improvements to the grid so it's more resilient against future storms."

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