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State Senator

Cathy Osten

Representing Columbia, Franklin, Hebron, Lebanon, Ledyard, Lisbon, Marlborough, Montville, Norwich & Sprague

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Sen. Osten Questions Electric Company’s Storm Response in Eastern Connecticut

State Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) testified today before the legislature’s Energy & Technology Committee regarding Eversource Energy’s lack of proper storm preparedness and lack of a quick, effective storm response in advance of – and following – the damaging windstorm of October 29-30 which left more than 100,000 Connecticut residents in the dark for multiple days, particularly residents of eastern Connecticut.

Sen. Osten told committee members that Connecticut needs periodic reviews of private-sector responses to natural disasters in Connecticut.

“It is vital to public safety that we evaluate whether or not our state’s ability to respond in an emergency needs improvement,” Sen. Osten testified. “Clearly, as this storm demonstrates, there is more work to be done. Further conversations on better coordination between cable, phone, and electric utility companies are sorely needed.”

As the first selectman of Sprague, Sen. Osten saw first-hand how downed power lines across public roads prevented local responders from clearing trees or assisting homeowners in need.

Sen. Osten suggested committee members focus on several key areas when reviewing the recent storm response, including:

  • How many linemen were available in the state to make repairs
  • How many support staff does the utility now employ
  • How did Eversource’ s information technology system interact with the public and public officials
  • What has been the benefit of the state mandate that utilities make roads “open, safe and secure” following a storm

Several years ago, the General Assembly convened a “Two Storm Panel” in response to two October 2011 storms – including Tropical Storm Irene, which caused n the largest power outage in the history of the state. The panel made 42 recommendations for minimum performance standards for emergency preparation and response for every electric company and gas company in Connecticut.

These standards include:

  • Minimum staffing and equipment levels for outage planning and restoration (linemen, technicians, etc.)
  • Targets for recovery and restoration of service based on the proportion of affected customers
  • Mutual aid agreements with out-of-state companies to bring in surplus workers as needed
  • Communication between utilities and customers, including during non-business hours, and to notify the public of service restoration estimates and dangerous conditions
  • Communication between and amongst utilities and government officials
  • Tree-trimming practices to reduce outages due to fallen limbs
  • Safety standards for employees of each utility, mutual aid crews and private contractors

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