Preliminary report expected on power utilities' response to March storms
STAMFORD -- Six months after a nor'easter knocked down power lines and left more than 160,000 Fairfield County residents and businesses in the dark, a state agency next week is set to release preliminary findings of an investigation on the response of Connecticut's two largest power utilities.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell first ordered the DPUC and the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security to seek details about how Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating Co. handled the torrential storms on March 13 and 14.
CL&P has said that during the height of the outage, more than 161,000 CL&P customers -- mostly in Fairfield County -- were without power.
But it was the time it took the company to restore power -- as long as six days in some cases -- that contributed to mounting anger in several communities.
In April, the state held public hearings in New Canaan, Westport, Fairfield and Greenwich. Town officials from Westport and Greenwich questioned whether CL&P had mobilized quickly enough once it became evident that a powerful storm was moving across the region.
To compound matters, union representatives at CL&P said line workers were instructed not to work beyond their 16-hour shifts to prevent them from being paid double time. Officials from CL&P adamantly denied the accusation.
The draft report is expected to contain recommendations for the utilities, but it will be up to the agency's commissioners to arrive at a decision that will be subject to public comment. Their decision should be issued within 30 days, Dukes said.
Asked about the length of time it has taken DPUC to wrap up the investigation, Dukes said the agency had dealt with a "monumental amount of information."
He added that New York, which was not as severely affected as Connecticut, only released the results of their investigation last week.
"It's an intensive amount of data review and analysis," he said. "We're very pleased with how quickly we got it done."
In North Stamford, which was hardest hit, City Rep. Randall Skigen, D-19, president of the Board of Representatives, called the March storm "unique."
"I think the response to what we have going on now will be more telling," he said, adding that he lost power for about three hours Friday during heavy rains that resulted in scattered outages. "They are more efficient than they were in March as far as I'm concerned. When you have a storm as severe as the March storm, it's going to be difficult to get everyone back and running." Nonetheless, Skigen said he was interested in the outcome of the state's investigation.
"It may have been you couldn't reasonably expect power restoration within a day or two, but what exactly CL&P did and what steps they took and how they will address that in the future is a concern."
Jeff Tilghman, a spokesman for CL&P said the company was looking forward to seeing the report.
"We've cooperated fully," Tilghman said. "We always do a thorough evaluation ourselves."