CT Gov. Malloy Contracts Firm To Investigate Utility Storm Response
HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork) – Connecticut Light & Power insists that 99 percent of customers still without power will have their electricity restored by Sunday.
Still, Connecticut residents are fed up and furious after being without power for days and wondering why their utility hasn’t gotten the lights back on. As of 9 p.m., just under 250,000 CL&P customers were without power.
Gov. Dannel Malloy said he has contracted the consulting firm Witt Associates to complete a review of CL&P and United Illuminating’s storm preparation and response by Dec. 1.
“As soon as everyone’s lights are back on, we need to have a very timely, thorough review of the power companies’ performance to identify what went wrong, why it went wrong and most importantly, identify solutions for the short term before winter’s first storm impact,” Malloy said.
Also Friday evening, six members of the Connecticut Congressional Delegation, including Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Sen. Joe Lieberman, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Rep. Christopher Murphy, Rep. Joe Courtney and Rep. Jim Himes, called for federal probe into CL&P’s response.
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The news followed Thursday’s investigation request by the state attorney general. The lawmakers are asking for the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to find out if the utility violated the Energy Policy Act of 2005, stating in a letter:
“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.”
Meanwhile, Dawn Sommo has been sleeping at her daughter’s house on Long Island and driving past her well-lit neighbors across the border in New York State, waiting for CL&P to get to work in New Fairfield.
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“I blame Mother Nature for the storm, but I blame Connecticut Light & Power for the lack of response,” Sommo said.
The streets in New Fairfield are still littered with debris and houses have been dark and cold for almost a full week since the storm.
“New York was knocking the ball out of the park. I mean, they were tearing it up — you drive along the border and there were full crews out there on the main road and we still didn’t even have the road open going down into Danbury,” said George Collentine.
In some parts of the state, the phone company is now generating its own power to run switching equipment. Even the cable companies are ready to reconnect, but the electric company is missing in action.
The utility is on the defensive.
“There’s extensive damage. People need to keep in perspective the magnitude of damage, especially in that northern (sector) where you still see a lot of the outages,” CL&P President and COO Jeffrey Butler said.
“We’re not buying it at all. I think it should be investigated. They should do something about it,” Steve Sutter said.
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Governor Malloy has criticized the utility, saying its response has been too slow.
“I, too, am frustrated as is everyone with the pace that has been set and we want to do everything we can as part of state government to help in performing the missions necessary,” he said.
On Thursday, Attorney General George Jepsen said he filed a formal request with Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.
Butler insisted they’re doing their best.
“We continue to strive to achieve what we set out to, which is 99 percent by Sunday night,” he said. ”Over the next 24 hours, we expect to restore 100,000.”
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Newtown was one of the hardest hit areas in the state. Homes are empty, people are in shelters and frustrations continued to boil over.
“It’s just starting to really affect us, it really is,” a woman named “Lynn” told CBS 2′s Derricke Dennis as she huddled together with her son and their rottweiler to keep warm.
She said it was frustrating to hear that power would be restored earlier in the week, only to see a continued delay in response time.
Late Friday afternoon, Newtown First Selectman E. Patricia Llodra issued a statement saying “We have not ‘made safe’ all of our roads and are losing the battle to gravity as wires begin to sag more and more under the weight of downed trees. Outages are still at more than 50 percent and I am concerned about wind and cold air making this even more intolerable for the 6,300 homes without power.”
That statement went on to criticize CL&P, saying the utility was “continuing to fail us here in Newtown.”
“They just don’t seem to understand how to assess damage and allocate resources appropriately,” the statement read.
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The 800 residents of Union near the Massachusetts border have also been without power since the storm hit on Saturday. They’ve spent the week checking in on neighbors and the elderly. The town hall, equipped with a generator, has been open with heat and showers.
First selectman Andy Goodhall said it took a while to get the word out.
“We lost all phone communication,” he told WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau. “It still is an issue. We’ve had to go door-to-door on things.”
Goodhall said the hope is that power will be back by the weekend, but he said these are hearty folks and all of them pitching in.
“Everybody’s coming together. It’s the way it should be,” he said. “I really don’t have people jumping up and down, threatening me or anything else. They understand and they also know that we’re doing the best we can.”
Meanwhile, CL&P is warning residents of a possible scam targeting customers without electricity. On its website, CL&P is telling its customers to be on the lookout for scammers claiming to be working for the utility.
“They’re claiming to be working for us and then saying ‘we’ll repair your issue for $200 cash’ and that’s not the way we do business,” said CL&P spokesman Mitch Gross. “We’re telling our customers to please be aware and if you’re approached by someone making that offer, to call the local police.”
Gross said all CL&P employees carry company identification and said customers should always ask to see that ID when a worker comes to their door.
“We have no idea who these people are but we have received reports that they are attempting to make a quick buck, so to speak,” said Gross.
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