In a draft decision released today, Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) called Connecticut Light & Power's response to Tropical Storm Irene and the October snow storm "deficient and inadequate."
PURA faulted other electric distribution and public service companies for also failing in the way they prepared for and responded to the outages caused by last year's storms but as the state's largest electric distribution company, CL&P bore the brunt of the criticism.
“Last year’s storms were a nightmare for Connecticut residents, and the response from Northeast Utilities was unacceptable," said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in a statement about the ruling.
"Today, PURA is echoing the earlier findings of the Two Storm Panel, the Witt report, and hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents who experienced extended power outages after each storm," Malloy said. "It is clear that Northeast Utilities did not prepare for outages of this magnitude and did not build adequate capacity to respond."
PURA said its findings will be a factor when it rules on the next rate request from CL&P and on any request from that distribution company for recovery of costs it incurred as a result of the storms. Currently, CL&P has no rate requests pending before PURA, nor has it submitted any request for recovery of storm-related costs.
The draft decision also provided an incentive for CL&P to strengthen its
preparation for future storms. PURA said it will “consider and weigh the extent to which CL&P has recognized its shortcomings and taken concrete, measurable steps to embrace the need for aggressive, extensive restructuring of both its attitude toward storm management and establishment of new practices for execution of future storm response.”
PURA's decision ordered CL&P to develop a plan to establish a “heightened state of readiness” in preparation for future storms and to take steps to address issues such as tree trimming, communications and securing mutual assistance.
Gov. Malloy noted that the state has also taken steps ensure that utility companies will be better prepared going forward. Earlier this year, the Legislature passed a comprehensive storm package that raised the standards and expectations for utility companies both before and after a storm or other disaster.
"Those standards will ensure that we have enough boots on the ground to
adequately prepare for and respond to whatever mother nature throws our way next,” Malloy said.
PURA will be gathering additional input from other interested parties to give people a chance to provide comments and testimony before it issues its final decision on this matter on August 1.
Attorney General George Jepsen, meanwhile, said he thought this draft decision was a step in the right direction.
“Today’s draft decision clearly echoes our case in this proceeding and would assess meaningful penalties on Connecticut Light & Power for the company’s deficient response to Tropical Storm Irene and the October Nor’easter," said Attorney General George Jepsen. “This draft is a positive step toward ensuring better quality of service and fair compensation for residents, ratepayers and municipalities.”