The General Assembly’s Energy and Technology Committee is considering legislation to mandate minimum staff levels for Connecticut’s utilities.
If Senate Bill 329 becomes law, the state Public Utilities and Regulatory Authority would have to establish minimum staffing and equipment standards. The legislation was introduced at the beginning of March, before three consecutive winter storms left tens of thousands without power for days.
The proposed legislation would impact all types of utilities, but appears to be in response to the electric utilities handling of power restoration efforts. [...]
Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman, a businessman, is supporting the proposed legislation. Though the legislation would apply to all utilities under PURA’s jurisdiction, Needleman said legislative action is especially needed to address “prolonged power outages, inadequate staffing, and incorrect information from Eversource.”
“In recent years, I have witnessed an alarming deterioration in response to power outages by Eversource, causing inordinate delays in power restoration to homes and businesses in Essex,” Needleman said. “Eversource has drastically reduced repair personnel and equipment, instead relying on resources from private contractors and service units from outside of their system. Second, and equally alarming, is the lack of operating management oversight in directing and coordinating whatever resources are available.”
Needleman, who is in his fourth term as Essex’s first selectman, said Eversource “has ignored their responsibilities by failing to implement effective weather-related response and repair.”
“Instead, they have chosen to implement staff and equipment reductions to effect cost economies,” he said. “As a matter of public safety, Eversource should be required to maintain adequate staffing and equipment levels.”
The lack of reliable electric system is a deterrent for new businesses considering locating in Connecticut, Needleman said.