Authority plans a formal review of utility performances
The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) has announced it has opened a formal docket to review the performance of Connecticut's electric distribution companies and other public service companies in preparing for and responding to Storm Sandy.
Otherwise known as Gov. Malloy's Storm Legislation, Public Act 12-148 requires PURA to review utility company performance when more than 10% of an electric distribution company's customers are without service for more than 48 consecutive hours, which was the case during Storm Sandy.
Following Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011 and a 2011 October nor'easter, four area towns, including Wilton, Redding, Ridgefield, and Newtown, joined forces to seek better future storm responses from Connecticut Light & Power Co. The group sought, and was given, intervenor status before PURA and advocated for more local control and better communication and preparedness, among other things.
Last May, the state legislature approved an emergency response bill initiated by Gov. Dannel Malloy. The bill allowed PURA to establish minimum standards of performance for utility companies, among other things. PURA receives its regulatory authority from the state legislature.
According to Redding First Selectman Natalie Ketcham, there is no need for intervenor status in PURA's proceedings regarding Storm Sandy. "Last year we wanted to make sure municipalities had a place at the table. Since PURA is now soliciting municipalities [for their accounts of the response], our goal is achieved."
She believes CL&P can learn from the "best practices" of utilities in other states, particularly Western Massachusetts Electric, its sister company in the Northeast Utilities system, which sent crews to Connecticut.
"Management structure of their crews was far superior, and they had cross-trained their employees to perform both tree and line functions. This makes the crews far more efficient and effective, and would easily solve the continuing problem of CL&P sending us linemen who are forced to waste valuable time early in the recovery waiting for line-certified tree crews to clear trees with downed wires."
Mitch Gross, CL&P spokesperson, said the company appreciates the comments it receives.
"We heard a lot of positive feedback from towns," he said on communication and collaboration, which were described as "much improved."
"We see every storm as a learning experience," he said. "We will work with Redding and all communities we serve to see where further improvements might be made."
Mr. Gross said his company is looking forward to participating in the PURA review and to continuing its own internal examination of its performance "in a top-to-bottom review."
According to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection release, information on PURA's recent investigation, Docket No. 12-11-07, including all documents and rulings, will be updated continually and may be found at www.ct.gov/pura.
The investigation will cover the state's two major electric distribution companies, the Connecticut Light & Power Co. (CL&P) and the United Illuminating Co. (UI), and also Connecticut Natural Gas Corp., Yankee Gas Services Co., and the Southern Connecticut Gas Co. PURA will investigate the state's telecommunications companies and the performance of cable television providers and water companies in a separate proceeding.
PURA's standard regulatory investigation following major storms, since Storm Gloria in 1985, includes a forensic review of the performance of the electric distribution companies and the local gas distribution companies. Their performance will be evaluated against the Gas and Electric Company Performance Standards PURA recently approved. The standards will include:
• Emergency planning.
• Preparation for the specific storm.
• Restoration performance.
• Plans for mutual assistance and supplemental staff.
• Communications with muni-cipal and other public officials.
PURA invites written and electronic comments from the public, including town officials, regarding their experience with the electric and natural gas utility companies in the aftermath of Storm Sandy. Comments will be accepted until the close of the administrative record of Docket No. 12-11-07. Anyone wishing to comment on the docket may do so through public hearings that will be scheduled, the PURA web filing system at www.ct.gov/pura, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by sending written comments to Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, Executive Secretary's Office, 10 Franklin Square, New Britain CT 06051.
At the conclusion of the investigation the authority may order specific remedies, compliance filings and orders. In addition, PURA may determine whether other sanctions are warranted.