Lawmakers Want Answers on Utility Companies' Storm Response

Lawmakers want to know how utility companies Eversource and United Illuminating operated in the days surrounding last month's powerful storm that knocked out power for more than 300,000 Connecticut ratepayers.

Two weeks after high winds tore down hundreds of power lines throughout the state, members of the Energy and Technology Committee asked executives from both companies to explain reports from their constituents of confusing repair time estimates and communication problems.

Committee chair Rep. Lonnie Reed described the hearing as a necessary fact-finding mission. Reed said she heard from frustrated constituents who, "called me and said there was no record of their outage. It went on and on and on like that."

Peter Clarke, senior vice president of emergency preparedness for Eversource, testified the company ultimately had over 4,800 problem spots throughout the state, which is about three times higher than expected. Clarke admitted the company’s customer service systems were overwhelmed by the volume of calls, texts and online inquiries from customers.

Clarke explained Eversource is taking steps to be better prepared for future events.

"We will take the lessons from the storm, and we will redouble our efforts on the technology and test it particularly for increased volumes," Clarke said. 

Those testifying from both Eversource and United Illuminating pointed to a high number of downed trees as the root cause of the widespread outages. More than 2,000 trees are reported to have come down into power lines within the territory served by both companies.

United Illuminating is still making repairs to their infrastructure and they expect to be finished by Thursday at midnight.

A further concern of lawmakers was how well the utilities are prepared for future weather events. Eversource representatives explained local crews worked around the clock throughout New England and needed reinforcement from out of state and said out-of-state crews from as far as Arkansas needed days to make the trip.

A second hearing is scheduled for Nov. 28 and will feature testimony from customers.

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