State regulators have been reviewing an agreement that has electric utility Eversource dropping its appeal of a $28 million fine connected to its Tropical Storm Isaias response last summer.
Some of those fines were imposed in connection with an NBC Connecticut Investigates exclusive.
Last August, five homes in a Somers neighborhood got a power surge so strong it fried numerous expensive appliances.
It prompted homeowners to contact NBC Connecticut Investigates about a longstanding policy by electric utility Eversource of paying actual cash value, versus replacement cost.
“To this day some people are still finding things that initially didn’t show up in the damage,” said Ed Sawicki of Somers, who was the first to reach out to us.
This took place soon after Tropical Storm Isaias, when a crew working for Eversource was making related repairs.
Marissa Gillett, the chair of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, or PURA, had not heard about the surge in Somers until NBC Connecticut Investigates asked her about it.
“By bringing to my attention that there was a deficiency in the way that Eversource restored power. In this instance to the town of Somers that allowed PURA to bring in evidence and ask questions,” Gillett said.
PURA investigated. It determined failing to report the Somers surge was not subject to a fine, but a handful of other unreported incidents involving minor injuries to workers, were.
Those failures account for roughly $178,000 of the fine of more than $28 million that Eversource has agreed to pay for its Isaias response…the utility said:
“As a regulated energy company we submit a list of all types of minor accidents to PURA every month. The $178,000 fine imposed by PURA is related to four minor accidents in August 2020 that were inadvertently left out of the monthly report. All of the incidents involved minor employee or contractor injuries, such as an employee rolling an ankle or stubbing a thumb while on the job. We take our responsibility to report accidents to our regulators very seriously and are not challenging the finding that the accidents should have been reported. Instead, we are appealing the amount of the fine and the interpretation of the statute stating a utility can be fined up to $500 per incident. The fine imposed by PURA totals $178,000 because it charges $500 per day the incident wasn’t reported. That said, as part of our settlement agreement with Governor Lamont and Attorney General Tong regarding our response to Tropical Storm Isaias, we’ve agreed to withdraw this appeal and will do so if the settlement is approved by PURA.”
The state’s other major electric utility, United Illuminating (UI), was fined a much smaller amount for its Isaias response, including $61,000 for failing to report several accidents. UI is still appealing its fine.
We have reached out three times for comment but have not heard back.
Going forward, the chair of PURA said that she wants even more input from the public when it comes to problems with Connecticut utilities…to that end she has set up a new Office of Education Outreach and Enforcement.
“They have spent the past year getting organized a brand new division of staff and they are available. They’re manning the phones, they’re manning the new email address…” Gillett said.
That email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the phone number is 1-800-382-4586.