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    Monday, April 15, 2024

    Eversource appeals penalty over tropical storm response

    HARTFORD (AP) — Connecticut's two largest electricity distributors have appealed millions of dollars in profit reductions imposed by the state for what regulators called the companies' failures in preparing for and responding to Tropical Storm Isaias, which caused hundreds of thousands of power outages last year.

    Eversource, which serves nearly 1.3 million homes and businesses in the state, appealed a mandated $31 million reduction in annual profits in documents filed Thursday in New Britain Superior Court. United Illuminating, which serves about 340,000 customers in southwestern Connecticut, appealed a $1.3 million profit reduction order in the same court Friday.

    Eversource called the indefinite annual profit penalty issued last month by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, or PURA, "grossly excessive" and unconstitutional, and said the penalty exceeds what state law allows. United Illuminating makes similar arguments in its appeal. Both companies have defended their responses to the storm.

    PURA also fined Eversource another $28 million and United Illuminating an additional $2.1 million in last month's ruling. The companies are not challenging those fines.

    The agency said in a statement Friday that it would “rigorously defend" its decisions in court.

    “Eversource is entitled to exercise any right to appeal it may have,” PURA said. “The Authority would rather that Eversource prioritize its responsibilities as a public service company and use its resources on operating a reliable and resilient distribution system and improving its emergency response instead of expending resources on further litigation.”

    PURA said officials were still reviewing United Illuminating's appeal, but added in another statement, “The Authority’s final decision speaks for itself with respect to UI’s performance in preparing for and responding to Tropical Storm Isaias.”

    Isaias roared through the Northeast on Aug. 4, knocking down scores of trees and utility wires.

    In Connecticut, more than 630,000 Eversource customers lost power during the storm and another 500,000 lost electricity in the aftermath as crews had to shut off power to make repairs, the company said. United Illuminating reported more than 113,000 outages during the storm and 157,000 outages in the aftermath during repairs.

    Many customers and local officials expressed anger and frustration at the companies' power restoration efforts, which took more than a week in some places.

    Eversource spokesperson Caroline Pretyman said Friday that the company restored power faster than in previous major storms.

    “Our appeal addresses critical legal aspects of PURA’s decision and the serious implications the decision will have on future storm response efforts,” Pretyman said in a statement.

    A United Illuminating spokesperson confirmed the appeal but did not immediately comment on it.

    In its decision, PURA determined both Eversource and United Illuminating failed to comply with standards of acceptable performance in emergency preparation and restoration of power outages, 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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