House Republican Leader Calls for Special Session

Lawmaker calls for special emergency preparedness and energy session.

 The House Republican leader is calling for a special Legislative session in December to look into emergency preparedness after massive power outages caused by the snowstorm on Saturday.

At the height of the power outage, more than 800,000 Connecticut houses and businesses were in the dark As of Friday afternoon, just shy of 300,000 customers are still without power. Connecticut Light & Power is under fire for lack of response in some areas.

Questions have arisen over the week on how prepared the company was to respond to the storm that brought down tree after tree.

State Rep. Lawrence Cafero Jr. is calling for the special emergency preparedness and energy session to enact legislation to require additional utility work crews, minimum staffing levels and other initiatives to shorten future electrical blackouts.

“Knowing that the legislature will not be in regular session until February, we should come back in special session by December to pass legislation that will bolster our state’s response to natural disasters and shorten the time anyone is without power,’’ Cafero said. “We just demonstrated we could do that quickly with the jobs package we passed, and we need to take action now on emergency preparedness initiatives.’’

Among Cafero’s ideas are to require utilities to train and maintain emergency “stand-by crews’’ of first responder personnel, retired utility workers as well as local responders such as firefighters; require mutual aid agreements to specify strict time lines with other utilities and states; and increase the use of fuel cells in Connecticut to provide more electricity that is “off the grid.’’

“The legislature can and must act now before the storm season really sets in to mitigate the possibility for another crisis this winter. We have been hit with two major storms within two months, so the need to act is pretty clear,’’ Cafero said.

The call for legislative action comes the day after the Attorney General called for an investigation into how prepared CL&P was coming into this storm.  

Congress members Rosa DeLauro, Chris Murphy, Joe Courtney and Jim Himes, and Senators Joe Lieberman and Richard Blumenthal are also calling for an investigation. 

They have asked Jon Wellinghoff, the Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to investigate whether Connecticut Light & Power and Northeast Utilities violated the Energy Policy Act of 2005 by restoring power to other northeast states more quickly than in Connecticut. 

"It has also come to our attention that utility customers in the State of Connecticut waited longer than any other state to have their power restored.  As a result, we request that you investigate Connecticut Light & Power and Northeast Utilities for any potential violations of Section 215 of the Federal Power Act," the letters from the Congressmembers said.  

U.S. Rep. John Larson said his primary focus is to ensure that power be restored and said "there will be ample time after power restoration and recovery efforts are complete to examine what went wrong when the power went out. At the appropriate time I plan to support a full investigation, that looks at the entire process- from the federal agencies coordination all the way down to the performance and preparation of CL&P."  

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