HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– Eversource and United Illuminating could face penalties in response to that tropical storm last summer that knocked out power to more than a million customers. The Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) unanimously approved an investigation that blames the utilities for failings.
This all comes after an eight-month investigation. It faults both Eversource and UI. But regulators say the majority of the issues fall on Eversource in the 48 hours after the storm.
PURA is calling for improvements to Eversource and UI’s emergency response plans. Regulators unanimously approved the ruling after hearing hundreds of testimonials about the response to Storm Isaias last August.
The decision finds that Eversource failed to appropriately work with cities and towns to make streets safe after the storm and failed to communicate critical information to customers.
UI was also found at fault, but the failings were not as severe. More than a million customers were in the dark last August for an extended amount of time, during a pandemic and heatwave. Many people complained about the costs of lost food. The utilities will now have a chance at due process. After that, there could be monetary penalties.
“Today’s decision represents the culmination of our months-long, comprehensive investigation, assisted tremendously by the first-hand experiences of customers and municipal leaders. Make no mistake – the decision is a commentary on the deliberate decision by Eversource leaders to manage the company as a corporation, rather than as a utility with a statutory public service obligation. The decision is not a reflection on the commendable efforts of the line workers, field crews, damage assessors and others, who came from near and far to assist Connecticut in our time of need. Now, we must all turn with renewed focus to next steps. I am not satisfied by the status quo of the utilities treating PURA simply as a body that they report information to – we are their regulator, and continuing to hold them to account will remain my mission for the duration of my service in this position,”Marissa P. Gillett, Chair, PURA
“It pains me that once again during my long tenure as a PURA Commissioner, I am sitting in judgment of our electric utilities’ response to a tropical storm. I would like to thank all parties that participated in this important docket, especially our exemplary staff at PURA. My colleagues and I spent hours listening to the powerful testimony of the numerous people impacted by the storm. I believe that our recommendations and conclusions in this docket provide a path forward for our utility companies to respond to significant outages in a prompt, safe and timely manner in the future.”John W. “Jack” Betkoski III, Vice-Chairman, PURA
Eversource sent News 8 the following statement as a response:
We stand by our response in Storm Isaias as we know our thousands of employees showed skill and dedication in restoring power to customers as quickly as possible. There are many areas for improvement that we are already addressing and we continue to work in good faith with our communities, customers and regulators to improve our performance. Today’s decision deserves careful consideration and review and we are committed to moving forward in the best interest of our customers.Eversource
Both Eversource and UI now have an opportunity to legally appeal this move.