Blumenthal, Courtney Press CL&P for Comprehensive Review in Wake of Hurricane Response

(Hartford, CT) – Senator Richard Blumenthal and Representative Joe Courtney wrote Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) President Jeffrey Butler today, pressing the company for a comprehensive review of its emergency response procedures and making recommendations based on their visits and conversations with local officials, business owners, and residents of communities damaged in Hurricane Irene. In the letter, Blumenthal and Courtney write:

“We…urge CL&P to cooperate fully with the Governor’s comprehensive review as well as any additional review by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection of the utility’s Hurricane Irene operations and consider implementing the following recommendations – based on feedback from our discussions with Connecticut residents – in order to provide the level of response to emergencies that the ratepayers expect and deserve.” 

Both Blumenthal and Courtney have spent the days after Hurricane Irene touring flood sites, damaged areas, and homes and businesses affected by the storm, and have met with residents, business owners, and local officials to assess damages, press for federal assistance, and understand fully the scope of the devastation.

The full text of the letter is below:

September 6, 2011 

Jeffrey D. Butler, President and Chief Operating Officer
Connecticut Light & Power
P.O. Box 270
Hartford, Connecticut  06141-0270

Dear Mr. Butler:

As of today, more than 99% of Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P) customers have had their electricity restored. We commend the hard work of the CL&P work crews who toiled ceaselessly to get power to residents and businesses throughout Connecticut.  

Over the past week, we have met residents, municipal officials and business owners who were hit hard by the storm. They have expressed many concerns regarding the actions of CL&P prior to, and subsequent to, Hurricane Irene. We share those concerns regarding responsiveness to consumers, especially in light of the potential merger of Northeast Utilities with an out-of-state company. 

Today, we write to urge CL&P to cooperate fully with the Governor’s comprehensive review as well as any additional review by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection of the utility’s Hurricane Irene operations and consider implementing the following recommendations – based on feedback from our discussions with Connecticut residents – in order to provide the level of response to emergencies that the ratepayers expect and deserve:

·         Review the number of in-state work crews.   In every widespread storm such as Hurricane Irene, there will be a need for out-of-state work crews; it is important for CL&P to maintain sufficient in-state crews for ongoing maintenance and preventive work and to form a base of support and knowledge for the out-of –state work crews.  In addition, CL&P should look to increase the use of in-state tree cutting companies during the emergency response rather than out-of-state tree cutting companies.

·         Assign at least one work crew to each municipality to work in conjunction with local public works and municipal elected officials.   Too many mayors and first selectmen were unable to clear roads and assist residents because of the lack of work crews in their towns.  In contrast, municipally owned utilities in Norwich, Groton and Jewett City assigned crews to work directly with the municipal public works department.  Power was restored in these communities – and in other towns served by municipal utilities – much more quickly than by CL&P due in part to better coordination.

·         Coordinate CL&P emergency operations plan with the municipalities’ emergency operations plan.   Town officials often felt that their emergency operations plan implementation did not coincide with the priorities contained in the utility’s emergency operations plan.  Some town priorities for restoration of electricity were not taken into consideration by CL&P.

·         Establish an easily accessible, clear timeline for power restoration that is updated frequently so residents and businesses can better plan their response to the power outages.  Residents who lose power for 24 hours would likely respond differently than residents who know their power won’t be restored for 5 days. Similarly, businesses need to know when they will be able to fulfill their customers’ orders or whether to seek assistance from competitors to fill customer requests.

·         Assign a year-round community liaison for each town that is familiar with the town and town officials and has accurate information.   Community liaisons were very welcome, but town officials expressed concerns that these liaisons were unfamiliar with the towns as they were assigned at the beginning of the emergency.  A year-round liaison will enhance communications and coordination with town officials. 

·         Review and improve utility preventive program to reduce power outages.   There were significant concerns expressed to us regarding the adequacy of tree trimming and other preventive measures. The utility should review the tree trimming operations of municipally-owned utilities to determine if there can be improvements.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive of potential improvements that the utility may enact over the next few months. However, we urge your quick adoption of these recommendations consistent with the findings and conclusions of the Governor’s review panel. If we can be of assistance, please contact us.

 

                                                                  Sincerely,

 

 

                  Richard Blumenthal                                        Joe Courtney

                  United States Senate                                      United States Congressman

 

Press Contact

Kate Hansen (Blumenthal) 202-224-2823

Josh Zembik (Courtney) 202- 225-2105