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Gov. Lamont, lawmakers call for investigation into power company response

Nearly one million Connecticut residents were left without power after Tropical Storm Isaias, Eversource and United Illuminating are reporting.

News 12 Staff

Aug 5, 2020, 11:00 AM

Updated 1,417 days ago

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Gov. Ned Lamont is asking state regulators to investigate whether Connecticut’s two power companies were prepared for Tropical Storm Isaias.
Eversource “grossly underestimated” outages, according to Marisa Gillette, the head of Connecticut’s Public Utility Regulatory Authority.
The utility planned for less than half the actual number of outages, according to documents Eversource filed with PURA the day before Isaias hit.
Lamont says he wants to know if Eversource and United Illuminating had enough staff and equipment on hand, and whether both companies have invested enough in storm preparedness.
"This is electricity. This is life-giving to people," says Lamont. "People, in many cases, can't survive without it."
More than 700,000 Connecticut residents were left without power after Tropical Storm Isaias, Eversource and United Illuminating reported.
Road crews were seen scrambling Wednesday to clear downed trees, but in many cases, they're waiting for an Eversource power truck.
"We have not seen an Eversource truck since the storm ended, and the stories that we're getting from Eversource's command staff is nonsensical," says Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton.
Eversource's outage reporting system went down Tuesday. State Sen. Bob Duff says it's become all too common for the system to go down during a major storm. He also wonders if the utility has cut costs too much.
"What are they doing? How are they improving customer service?" asked Duff.
Eversource spokesperson Mitch Gross says the utility was having some issues Tuesday and Wednesday.
"According to our IT folks, one of the issues was a software issue. That has been taken care of," he says.
Hundreds of angry customers took to Twitter. So did state lawmakers, calling the utility's response "beyond unacceptable."
 
"We've been through this time and time again," says Duff.
"I want to make sure we put every person we can on the table to make sure we take care of this," Lamont says.
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Back in 2011, the same issues popped up after a surprise October snowstorm. After a powerful nor'easter in 2017, Eversource told lawmakers it had upgraded its systems.
"They've gotten rate increases to trim more trees. Is that having an effect? They've gotten rate increases to harden the wires and put in better poles. Are any of those things making a difference?" asked Duff.
"We understand their concerns. We hear them and we're working on the system, and we continue to try to improve it to accommodate the volume of inquiries we're getting from our customers," says Gross.
Eversource and United Illuminating say it could take many days to get the power back on. For its part, Eversource is actually bringing in crews from Canada to help out.
"To Eversource's credit, we've got already 200,000 people back up, and that's not good enough for me," says Lamont.
"We fully understand the magnitude of this event and the urgency that we need to take in order to get our power back to our 600,000 customers," says Eversource Regional Electric Operations President Craig Hallstrom.
United Illuminating’s website was also down for several hours Wednesday.
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PHOTOS:  Tropical Storm Isaias 
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