Utility companies under fire from state, federal lawmakers over slow storm response

Fairfield

CONNECTICUT (WTNH) — Utility companies are now racing to get the state back on the grid. In the meantime, lawmakers continue to criticize their “slow response” following the storm.

Judith Road in Danbury is impassable.

Governor Ned Lamont and Mayor Mark Boughton, joined by Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, surveyed the damage from this week’s tropical storm. Nearly 15,000 homes remain in the dark in Danbury as of Friday afternoon.

“A slow response; probably the worst response in the 20 years that I’ve been mayor of this city, ” said a frustrated Mayor Mark Boughton.

Lamont echoed the remarks of others who recalled Superstorm Sandy.

“Given what happened, as Dick [Richard] said just 10 years ago, it’s shocking we didn’t learn from that example,” the governor remarked.

Government officials said the utilities have cut back on boots on the ground and are relying on local officials to assess “live wires.”

Republican Mayor Boughton said he’s furious.

“They did that to make a billion-dollar profit. They did that so they could pay their CEO $19 million a year so he can fly in a helicopter from a press conference.”

Boughton went on to say the utilities should be embarrassed by their poor response.

“If I did that job here in Danbury, I would have been fired 15 years ago,” he said.

In addition to state regulators investigating Eversource and United Illuminating, the chair of the state energy committee said the legislation is being drafted to force utilities to open their wallets. Not that of the ratepayers.

State Representative David Arconti, of Danbury, said “We are going to be looking hard at whether or not profits should be used for storm management.”

Blumenthal is asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to investigate as well.

“After this abject failure, maybe it’s time to clean house at Eversource,” he said.

In Westport, 85% of the town is still in the dark. Many residents have been charging their devices at a makeshift charge up center at the town library.

President Donald Trump called Governor Lamont on Thursday evening to personally tell him Connecticut is the first in the nation to get 100% reimbursement by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to cover all the national guard costs related to COVID-19 response.

A public hearing of the utility rate case hike overseen by the Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 24 at 10:00 a.m. at the PURA headquarters in New Britain.

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