NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Regulators are investigating the response of United Illuminating and Eversource to Tropical Storm Isaias all this week in a virtual hearing.
The first in a series of public PURA hearings this week was held Wednesday.
People are demanding the companies be forced to pay for spoiled food and medicine.
Attorney General William Tong made a plea in the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) hearing, urging regulators to immediately reimburse customers who lost food and medication due to prolonged power outages during the storm.
The storm slammed Connecticut on Aug. 4. Hundreds of thousands of customers were left without power, and it took a full week for power to be fully restored.
The disaster came right in the middle of drastic rate hikes for a lot of customers.
Tong has been advocating for months to help ratepayers and wants people reimbursed right now.
“Why weren’t they ready? Eversource and UI are public service utilities. We pay them to be ready. We bet our lives on their ability to be ready and manage risk,” Tong said.
He, along with Governor Ned Lamont, pushed PURA to open a case and review Eversource and UI’s lack of preparation and not-so swift response to power outages.
The Office of the Attorney General has filed 45 interrogatories since the storm –a list of questions used in the discovery process in a civil action suit as part of PURA’s investigation.
Tong said people are struggling with the pandemic, many have lost their jobs and some are still trying to hold on to them.
“People are really hurting. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, a public health emergency where people are just trying to hold on to their jobs, their small businesses…I want this fight to go as quickly as possible. Why? Because people need relief and we need the utilities to step forward and say, ‘This is never going to happen again, and here’s what we’re going to do to make it right.”
Earlier this month, the governor signed the ‘Take Back the Grid Act‘ that will allow for more accountability and reimbursement for customers who lose food and medicine during future power outages. But the fight continues for utilities to pay up for what happened last month.
Barbara Geddis Wooten, of Wilton, a public utility customer, told News 8 her week-long loss of power was horrible, dangerous, and health-threatening: “I’m a small business owner in another town where I lost one whole week of income. I’m also a woman-owned business. Who’s going to help my small business, already severely crippled by COVID?…We lost all of our fridge and freezer which I stupidly just stocked and several refrigerated medications. It was well over $1,500 worth of stuff.”
Another public utility customer, Jeff Becker, said “If I needed to make a phone call for an emergency like a heartattack I wouldn’t be here today. There should be fines and consequenes for failure to act.”
Horror stories still emerging more than two months since Tropical Storm Isaias slammed Connecticut.
Eversource released the following comment in response:
We understand the hardships our customers and towns experienced during Tropical Storm Isaias…These public comment sessions are an important part of PURA’s storm review process – allowing customers and community leaders to express their input and share their experiences. We welcome their feedback.
UI said it also welcomes the feedback and is participating in PURA’s investigation hearings continuing Thursday and Friday.