Rell to Investigate Utility Response to Storm - NBC Connecticut

Rell to Investigate Utility Response to Storm

CL&P says power should be restored to all by Thursday night



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    Trees and wind knocked out power and caused a battle between CL&P union and management over why power is not back on everywhere.

    Some of the approximately 30,000 households that have no power could not have any until Thursday night, CL&P officials said, and Gov M. Jodi Rell wants to know what the state's two largest utility companies did to respond to the storm. 

    CL&P issued a statement on Tuesday saying they expect to restore most service to Wilton, Redding and Weston by Tuesday night, to Darien, Norwalk, Westport and New Canaan by Wednesday night and for Greenwich and Stamford by Thursday night. 
    “With about 1,400 trouble spots remaining, previous CL&P restoration estimates are being updated to reflect actual on-site assessments, which have been completed in all areas except for some parts of Greenwich,” CL&P said in the news release issued on Tuesday. “This assessment is particularly challenging in Greenwich, where 42 tree crews are clearing paths through tree-clogged streets before line crews can begin restoring electric service.”
    CL&P also issued this statement defending itself against Gov. Rell's charges.  
    "It is our practice to do a detailed review and critique of our performance after a significant restoration effort to identify opportunities for improvement.  We welcome the opportunity to engage with the DPUC, and other state officials in that review, as well as with towns, local officials, and our customers," said CL&P spokesman, Mitchell Gross.
    Westport Center for Senior Activities will remain open through Tuesday night to accommodate those needing shelter and the Westport Weston Family Y has offered its showers to those who need them.
    The devastating storm that blew through the state on Saturday left destruction in its wake and news about the time restoration timeline comes as Connecticut Light & Power labor union officials are claiming that part of the reason is the company’s efforts to keep costs down. 
    CL&P officials say they did not delay response to power outages to keep from paying some crews double time for working longer shifts.
    Labor union officials say CL&P set a schedule for linesmen on Saturday and Sunday to avoid higher double time pay and delayed power restoration to some customers. Only 25 percent of workers were allowed to work overnight, John Unikas, business manager of IBEW Local 420, told the Day of New London.
    "There were 65,000 people without power (Sunday) night and the company only let 25 percent of the work force work overnight, and 75 percent were told to go home and get rest," he told the newspaper. "I've never seen anything like it."
    CL&P spokesman Mitch Gross denied the allegations. The company's response has been aggressive, he said.
    “"Customers are number one," Gross told the Day. "Safety is by and far number one. Our job is to get the lights back on and do it in the most efficient way we can."
    More than 300 lines crews, 130 tree crews and hundreds of support personnel are working out of mobile satellite operation locations from Westport to Greenwich, according to CL&P. 
    Crews are being scheduled for 16-hour shifts followed by an eight-hour rest period, to ensure the safety of all workers, the company said, and resources are available around the clock to continue the restoration effort and respond to emergency and emerging situations.
    State regulators are investigating about 20 complaints about CL&P's response to the outages and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal told the Day that, because management of costs are involved, he will recommend that the DPUC investigate the issue as part of the ongoing rate case. 
    Gov. M. Jodi Rell has asked the Department of Public Utility Control and the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security to examine the actions of CL&P and United Illuminating Co. in the initial hours of the weekend storm.
    Rell said she heard from many municipal leaders, fire and police chiefs and emergency management officials who complained that the utility companies were slow to respond to the storm Saturday night and Sunday. The officials said they had trouble reaching utility officials – often getting voice mail or no answer at all – and said that they saw relatively few utility crews on the job in the first two days of the storm.