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Eversource could be fined $30 million for storm failures

HARTFORD (AP) — Connecticut regulators on Thursday proposed a $30 million fine for Eversource and a $2.1 million fine for United Illuminating for what officials called the utilities' failures in their preparation and response to Tropical Storm Isaias, which left hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in the state without power last August.

The state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, or PURA, issued violation notices to the two companies, a week after releasing final reports on its investigation of the utilities' storm responses.

Eversource, the state's largest electricity distributor with nearly 1.3 million customers in the state, and United Illuminating, with 340,000 electricity customers in southwestern Connecticut, have 20 days to request a hearing to contest the proposed fines.

Officials at both companies, which have defended their responses to the storm, said they were reviewing the proposed sanctions and will be deciding how to respond.

“While our employees worked tirelessly to restore power as quickly as possible, we recognize the hardships our customers and communities experienced, and we acknowledge there are areas for improvement,” Eversource spokesperson Tricia Modifica said in a statement. “We are working — and will continue to work — in good faith with our communities, customers and regulators to improve our performance.”

United Illuminating spokesperson Ed Crowder said company officials are disappointed PURA did not consider the facts the utility presented to the agency during the investigation.

“The facts show that we faithfully followed our Emergency Response Plan,” Crowder said in a statement. “We will continue to work with PURA to improve our preparation for and response to storms and other emergencies."

PURA officials said they could not comment on the proposed fines until they are finalized.

The fines would be in addition to profit reductions PURA ordered for Eversource and United Illuminating as a result of the Isaias investigation. Eversource stands to lose about $25 million a year and United Illuminating would lose about $1.3 million a year in their returns on equity, PURA said.

Isaias knocked down scores of trees and utility wires, causing more than 740,000 outages at its peak and a total of more than 1.3 million outages for Eversource and United Illuminating customers. Many customers and local officials expressed anger and frustration at the companies’ power restoration efforts, which took more than a week in some places.

The reports PURA issued last week determined the companies failed to comply with standards of acceptable performance in emergency preparation and restoration of power outages in an emergency, including failing to deploy enough line workers. Regulators also said the utilities violated state reporting requirements by not disclosing minor accidents involving workers during their storm responses.

PURA also ordered the companies and their affiliates to improve how they respond to major storms. The orders include increasing the number of line workers and other responders who restore power and clear blocked roads, and improving communications with customers. It also ordered management audits of the companies by independent firms.

 

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