CL&P offers $10 million to help homeowners
Connecticut Light & Power Co. will set up a $10 million fund to help residents who suffered losses in the October snowstorm, an offer that comes as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy warned the company it must change its culture to deal more effectively with future natural disasters.
And Connecticut's attorney general said he will research whether the state's largest power utility broke any laws in its handling of outages that left thousands of people in the cold and the dark for more than a week.
Malloy officially expanded the scope of a panel, initially set up to review responses to Tropical Storm Irene, to include how the October storm was handled. "I think that some utilities, and I'm suspecting CL&P falls into this category, have given more lip service to preparation than actually drilling on execution with respect to preparedness and recovery," he told reporters.
"I think that's ultimately, without prejudging anything, what we're going to find," he said. "And I think to change that, there are going to have to be structural changes within the utilities to make sure that it becomes in essence part of their fabric."
Malloy told the panel at the start of a day-long hearing in the Legislative Office Building that state residents are beyond frustration and disappointment with both CL&P and the United Illuminating Co., but CL&P in particular.
"I think we are dealing with a situation where many of our citizens have lost faith with their utility," Malloy told his storm panel.
At about the same time, Charles W. Shivery, chairman, president and CEO of Northeast Utilities, the parent company of CL&P, announced: An apology to customers; a new $10 million fund for CL&P customers who experienced losses, a fund that would be administered at the governor's discretion; a program to waive late-payment penalties for customers through the rest of the year; and a pledge to provide "additional resources," at no expense to towns, for local tree-trimming programs.
While insurers are still calculating the losses experienced by homeowners in the storm, it is expected to reach several hundred million dollars.
Shivery also said the company has asked the Edison Electric Institute, the industry's trade group, to review the mutual aid system under which utilities in different states come to each other's assistance.
CL&P is facing at least five investigations into the outages triggered by the Oct. 29 storm, which brought trees down on power lines across the state and cut electricity to a total of more than 830,000 customers.
But the probe by Attorney General George Jepsen could carry the most serious consequences.
Jepsen told The Associated Press in an interview that his office will develop a legal theory that could determine if CL&P violated any laws.
He is asking the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to gather emails, correspondence and other documents to determine if CL&P had a plan to manage its electrical system during and after the storm.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.