Senator Cohen Writes Eversource President:

"I implore you to explain how Eversource can justify such a poor storm response."


GUILFORD – State Senator Christine Cohen (D-Guilford) today wrote Eversource Energy Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer James J. Judge to ask how the Massachusetts-based, multibillion dollar company could have so badly prepared for and – so far –executed its cleanup following Tropical Storm Isaias, which has left nearly three-quarters of a million customers in Connecticut without power – including nearly 31,000 customers in five of the six towns that Sen. Cohen represents in the 12th State Senate District: Branford, Durham, Guilford, Killingworth, Madison, and about four dozen customers in North Branford.

"Forecasters had been tracking this storm for a week. Its track was not a surprise to anyone. That Connecticut was on the east side of the storm and would be experiencing incredibly high winds was not a surprise to anyone. So why then did it seem to catch Eversource off guard? Why did Eversource not plan for crews to provide service through the night? Why were there large portions of towns across the state inaccessible to emergency vehicles?" Sen. Cohen said. "It's been a decade since the devastating October storm of 2011 and here we are, with practically the same number of power outages in Connecticut. Why? In the past 10 years, what lessons did Eversource learn about storm preparedness in Connecticut, if any? Instead, Eversource has cut its workforce by seven percent since 2012, even as its profits are soaring. Is that why there are so few boots on the ground across the region despite rate increases that were to be used to purportedly pay for some emergency relief efforts? I have so many questions that need to be answered if my constituents and I are going to have any faith in the largest electricity company in the state going forward."

Sen. Cohen also appeared today at a press conference with state Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex), who is Senate Chairman of the legislature's Energy and Technology Committee. Sen. Needleman called for a legislative investigation and audit into Eversource to review its past electrical grid hardening preparation, its charges to consumers, and its response to Tropical Storm Isaias.

A copy of Sen. Cohen's letter to Eversource Chairman Judge is below:


Dear Mr. Judge,

I write to you this morning dismayed by the lack of a quick, effective storm response by Eversource to the damage caused during Tropical Storm Isaias. As the senator for the 12th Senate District, representing the towns of Branford, Durham, Guilford, Killingworth, North Branford, and Madison, I need to understand why there have been so many shortcomings. Of my utmost concern are our seniors and most vulnerable populations during the heat of summer, as well as those with no access to water as a result of the power outage. We certainly do not want people to congregate in public shelters during a pandemic, yet this is exactly how most towns will respond in order to serve the needs of our most vulnerable.

Additionally, I was surprised to hear from the local fire chiefs, police and other town officials that Eversource refused to service towns during the night with line crews. Power outages in the my Senate district are overwhelming, with 80% of Madison without power and Guilford at 74%. As a result of the lack of Eversource crews to promptly respond to downed trees and wires, public safety has been jeopardized because entire sections of towns have been cut off from emergency services.

There also seems to be a disconnect in how Eversource portrayed its storm readiness on the eve of the storm. Eversource Vice President of Electric Operations Mike Hayhurst stated, "Working under challenging conditions related to the pandemic our crews are positioned around the state and ready to respond to any damage or outages caused by Tropical Storm Isaias. Our team will work around-the-clock to restore power as quickly and safely as possible – yet some restorations may take longer as we work to ensure the safety of our employees and customers." However, the opposite appears to have occurred. The power outages were further hampered by a temporary outage of the Eversource reporting system.

After the devastating storms of 2011, Eversource vowed to make the changes needed to ensure that it would be able to respond more efficiently and effectively to natural disasters. Municipalities also responded and did their part to improve communications with utilities and enhanced their emergency operation systems. However, it appears that there are still serious flaws in the preparation for, and implementation of, your storm response to Tropical Storm Isaias.

The Hartford Courant reported last year that Eversource spent $152.5 million over two years on emergency repairs to damage caused by numerous storms. Recently we have seen exorbitant rate hikes for consumers, in part to cover expenses from storms. The most recent storm was well-predicted and expected, but the response of Eversource has not lived up to expectations. What evidence is there to demonstrate that customers reaped the rewards their increased payments? What improvements to customer service have been implemented? To what extent has Eversource improved its storm responsiveness?

I implore you to explain how Eversource can justify such a poor storm response after continual rate hikes, despite making close to a billion dollars in profit last year! There is no excuse why Eversource cannot provide better services to consumers, especially in light of a well-predicted tropical storm. I ask you to explain to the Connecticut General Assembly your inadequate communication structures, lack of a timely, efficient storm response and to provide clear plans on how this will be remedied immediately. We are at the beginning of the hurricane season, and in the midst of a health pandemic, and I fear that we will be dealing with this horrific and unacceptable situation yet again.

Respectfully,

Christine Cohen
State Senator
12th Senatorial District


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