Needleman: New Bill to Hold Utilities Responsible

By Norm Needleman.

(Feb. 1, 2019) — This week, I announced that I’ve submitted a bill designed to hold utility companies responsible for the services they need to provide their customers, requiring them to improve responses to power outages and increase vital staffing.

An Act Concerning Utility Response Times For Restoration of Electric Service and Utility Minimum Staffing Levels

This bill would require companies to restore electric service after power outages on a timely and improved schedule. This comes after, in the last several years, response times for repair work by companies like Eversource have climbed, leaving residents and businesses in the dark, literally, for days. When severe weather strikes, Connecticut taxpayers often have to wait days before their lights come back on and they can resume their daily lives.

When Connecticut taxpayers already pay the third-highest rates for electricity in the country, according to the Energy Information Agency, there’s no reason why they should receive poor service in return. This bill is part of an effort to hold Eversource and other energy providers accountable to prevent that poor service from continuing to hinder taxpayers’ lives.

Higher staffing levels

The bill also puts minimum staffing levels in place for these companies’ line crews. At the same time that their response times have grown, Eversource has slashed repair staff and equipment numbers, working instead with private contractors from outside of their system. This leaves them flat-footed in the event of an emergency, delaying their response times and further frustrating their customers.

This is coming at the same time that Eversource, according to the Hartford Courant, is requesting a rate increase from the Public Utilities Regulation Authority. Citing the increased costs of system repairs, that rate increase could represent more than $20 per year added onto already high energy bills. If Eversource hadn’t reduced staff and equipment, and had responded to weather events more effectively, those repairs might not add up to a reported $150 million.

Businesses, families and residents all lose when they’re left in the dark, not only by a power outage but ny not knowing when their power will come back. This bill will better provide them with the services their customers deserve.

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