Opinion / State Sen. L. Scott Frantz
Published 3:30 pm, Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Tropical Storm Irene brought more destruction and displacement to our region than we expected for a downgraded hurricane. We all know those who suffered great losses, and we will never forget our own personal experiences. Unfortunately, the storm's aftermath also brought to light significant deficiencies in the service recovery plans of our utilities. For a weakened hurricane, the effects were more widespread than forecast and memorable, to say the least. So was the agonizing wait for the restoration of power and phone service to many of our homes and businesses.
At the request of many legislators, myself included, the General Assembly will hold hearings on the readiness and response of the state's utilities in the next few weeks. Information gathering after a major event is constructive as we plan for any future events, but we have been down that road before. To give the issue some more urgency, I am working to propose legislation to assure that Connecticut Light and Power and United Illuminating will be more accountable for timely service restoration to any and all of you who pay an electric bill. If this legislative effort is successful, municipalities and utilities will have a coordinated storm recovery plan for any kind of significant weather event, you will know how repair crews are contracted for in our area in advance of any storm and you will better understand management recovery decision making performance based on a CL&P and UI provided GPS tracking system for out-of-state contracted repair vehicles with a built in reporting delay for safety reasons indicating where crews are working and where work has been completed. Utilities are indeed monopolies and carry the responsibility of being accountable to you, the rate payer. Given today's very affordable technology that allows us to track a package to nearly a foot of where it is en route and determine with certainty when it will show up at any destination, we can expect nominally better transparency as to subcontracted crew deployment, improved reaction times to storm induced power outages and predictability regarding power restoration. It is reasonable for us to expect the utilities that we have solely entrusted with the responsibility to provide our electricity to restore power to all citizens within a practical period of time without the feeling of being deceived or neglected. Those of you who contacted the utilities during the storm and waited up to eight days to have your power restored know exactly to what I am referring.
Connecticut towns and municipalities had outstanding leadership, recovery plans and infrastructure in place to deal with the circumstances that we faced as a result of Irene. After spending a good part of the week driving through the 36th District to assess and assist with the recovery effort, I think you should be incredibly proud of your local leadership who has demonstrated best practices in command, control and communications. The utility crews who were working 16-hour shifts deserve our sincere gratitude and accolades. The senior management team of the electric utilities clearly need a few days away from their normal routine to better understand how this could have happened after last year's power outages and how to manage much more effectively recovery efforts in future storms. I am hopeful, the next time around, we can expect better response times, more crews on the ground in advance of a storm and, at the very least, much better communications.
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State Sen. L. Scott Frantz represents the 36th District.