Legislative committee begins review of utilities' storm response

State lawmakers began a review this week of utility companies’ response to the Oct. 29 storm that left tens of thousands of residents in eastern Connecticut and beyond without power for days.

At a meeting Wednesday at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, the legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee heard from state and local officials and representatives of Eversource Energy and United Illuminating, the state's largest providers of electricity. The committee will hold a second, as-yet-unscheduled meeting at which members of the public will have an opportunity to speak.

State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, who had called for the review, told the committee she has questions about Eversource’s staffing levels and faulty “information technology” that plagued communications during and after the storm. She also inquired about the implementation of a state mandate that utilities make roads “open, safe and secure” following a storm.

Osten served on the legislature’s so-called “Two Storm Panel” in the wake of two October 2011 storms, including Tropical Storm Irene, which caused the largest power outage in the history of the state. The panel made 42 recommendations for minimum performance standards for emergency preparation and response for every electric company and gas company in Connecticut.

“It is our responsibility as lawmakers to revisit policies and procedures that guide storm response throughout the state, especially following a situation like the one many customers faced last month,” Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, co-chairman of the Energy and Technology Committee, said in a statement. “Across our state, power remained out for an extended period of time for many and others experienced concerning situations on state and local roadways."

"I look forward to gathering more information to determine what steps utilities can take to better serve and protect residents," he said.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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