Letter to the editor from State Representative Stephen Meskers
I want to share this legislative update on the aftermath of this tropical storm which many of us are still reeling from. I sit on the Energy and Technology Committee in Hartford and, as our response to this weather emergency evolves, there are a number of serious questions that need to be answered.
Our state has been devastated by Tropical Storm Isaias, causing over 700,000 power outages across Connecticut, prompting Governor Ned Lamont Wednesday to apply for an emergency declaration from the federal government. The declaration was approved and allows Connecticut to request direct federal assistance to bolster its response.
Despite ongoing efforts, 414,000 customers are still without power and will remain in the dark into next week as Eversource predicts power restoration will be “substantially complete” by Tuesday at 11:59 pm.
As a regulated entity, Eversource is responsible for the safety and stability of the power grid. As a regulated monopoly, they have exclusive rights to those transmission lines and are expected to maintain the appropriate staff to keep them in good working order. That includes what would be referred to as a hardened or stable transmission grid. Obviously, the grid did not hold up well in this storm.
Eversource’s response to Tropical Storm Isaias has been unacceptable and abysmal. The level of unpreparedness, lack of communication and responsiveness from our largest energy company has been inexcusable. I join Governor Lamont and Attorney General Tong, and my colleagues in calling for an immediate investigation into Eversource on their preparation and response to this storm. Since major storms in 2011 and 2012, ratepayers have spent millions to strengthen the electric grid and improve communications systems, which all failed during the storm.
With some of the highest energy rates in the continental US, our constituents and ratepayers deserve better, and Eversource executives must be held accountable.
Once power is restored there are a number of serious questions that need to be answered:
1. Does Eversource maintain the appropriate level of a standing Workforce to maintain the distribution grid?
2. Given the magnitude of the storm, did Eversource have the appropriate out-of-state workforce contracted and on the ground in advance to help in the immediate repair of the power grid?
3. Will shareholders or ratepayers ultimately bear the cost of repairing the grid and in what ratio?
4. Would the money spent fixing a grid that collapses in a storm be better spent strengthening the grid to provide more stability?
5. The CEO made a reported $11 million in compensation last year. How does that fit with the level of service and the rate we pay for distribution?
I can assure you I will pursue these lines of inquiry vigorously in our next session.
State Representative Stephen Meskers