Once again, all of us in Weston are severely disappointed with CL&P’s response to a major storm. In fact, even today close to 60,000 Connecticut residents still do not have power. CL&P had at least three days’ warning to prepare for this unseasonable snowstorm. So what went wrong?
First of all, CL&P does not call for mutual aid from other states until after they can fully assess the damage, which does not happen until after the storm hits. Did CL&P not learn from Irene that this is way too late? Even when CL&P did call for mutual aid, the surrounding states did not release the workers right away. Yet CL&P counted those numbers as confirmed and told the public and municipalities that help was on the way, when in fact, it was not.
Additionally, some crews arrived without proper equipment or trained personnel. So, rather than paying to get crews here earlier, CL&P wasted money on crews that were incapable of working. CL&P needs a better game plan, and we must look at the federal and state regulations that oversee these mutual aid agreements.
Another idea would be to train local electricians and tree crews to cut the power to downed live wires and begin the “make safe” process as soon as possible. CL&P cites concerns about “union issues.” When the governor declares a State of Emergency, the safety of our residents should trump all. And, we’d have the added bonus of giving work to Connecticut employees.
Communications from CL&P were difficult and sparse, at best. Weston was fortunate to have an excellent CL&P liaison assigned to town hall, working right out of my office, so I observed first-hand CL&P’s internal communications problems. Our liaison was not able to access software that allows us to track crews on the ground until four days after she arrived. Often, the system simply crashed. Areas scheduled for repair were often not where the crews were actually working. We were promised that a certain circuit would be repaired, promising restoration to a large number of people. Often these reports were off by a factor of 10.
Sadly, I found it necessary to include a warning to not believe CL&P updates in my daily Code Red messages. In truth, corporate CL&P threw its own employees under the bus by giving them incorrect information. Many residents were told that they had power, when in fact, they didn’t. Many residents were told that they were “not a priority.” And most residents just wanted a simple answer - when could they anticipate the return of power? Those answers were not reliable or available.
Governor Malloy has ordered an independent inquiry into CL&P’s storm response. In the meantime, it is important to push the Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) to insist on tighter regulations. It’s bad enough that CL&P is a monopoly; they cannot be allowed to set the rules as well. The regulators have allowed CL&P to reduce maintenance of wires and tree trimming, and we’ve all experienced the result.
Weston needs answers, and CL&P must be held accountable for their actions (or lack thereof).