On Wednesday Attorney General William Tong praised a final decision by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority imposing a $29 million civil penalty against Eversource for its failure to meet its obligations to ratepayers in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias.
“Eversource failed its customers and put Connecticut families at risk. Their response to Tropical Storm Isaias was unacceptable, and PURA is right to impose severe penalties. This penalty will be paid rightfully by the company and its shareholders—not ratepayers. Eversource has much work to do to regain our trust, and we will be holding them accountable at every step along the way,” Attorney General Tong said in a statement Wednesday.
Attorney General Tong advocated for the maximum allowed statutory civil penalty against Eversource.
In his brief to PURA filed on February 5, 2021 addressing Eversource’s Tropical Storm Isaias failures, Attorney General Tong argued that Eversource:
1) was imprudently unprepared to communicate with its customers during the Tropical Storm Isaias emergency;
2) imprudently administered the Make Safe phase of the storm response related to road clearing; and
3) ineffectively implemented its town liaison program during the critical early days of the public safety emergency. PURA correctly concluded that Eversource failed to comply with the applicable performance and prudence standards for each of these fundamental areas of storm preparedness and response.
Tong intervened last August on behalf of CT ratepayers in PURA’s investigation into the response by both Eversource and United Illuminating to Tropical Storm Isaias.
At Tong’s urging, PURA agreed to open a contested case and prudence review—legal proceedings that enable the Attorney General to make the strongest possible claims on behalf of ratepayers and the state, to seek fines, penalties and injunctive relief, and to oppose the utilities’ requests for profits and reimbursement of storm-related costs.
PURA has robust authority as the state’s principal regulator and the legal forum to investigate and pursue such claims against state utilities.
The Office of the Attorney General issued 58 interrogatories in the proceeding, questioning both Eversource and United Illuminating on all facets of their storm preparation and response.
Eversource’s failures caused severe harm, as Attorney General Tong’s brief detailed. A wastewater treatment plant was left without power for nearly a week. A police station was without power for at least six days. A deceased person was left in a car for five hours, trapped by a tree tangled in electric wires. A family dog was electrocuted by a live downed wire a full four days after Isaias struck. Vulnerable residents were trapped in their homes without power. Those dependent on wells did not have running water.
Assistant Attorneys General Lauren Bidra, Matthew Fitzsimmons, John Wright, Robert Shea, Paralegal Specialist Casey Rybak, and Michael Wertheimer, Deputy Associate Attorney General & Chief of the Consumer Protection Section assisted the Attorney General in this matter.