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Malloy Questions Utilities' Hurricane Sandy Response

In his afternoon briefing Malloy said he's been told by some town leaders that the help they're getting from the utility companies is less than what the utilities have told Malloy they are doing.

For the first time since Hurricane Sandy blew a swath of destruction through Connecticut, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is questioning the response by the state's two main utility companies to widespread power outages and warning that both could be censured by regulators if that response is found lacking.

While calling on the 217,000 residents who are still without power following Hurricane Sandy to be patient while they wait for their lights to come back on,  Malloy today said he is troubled by reports that some towns might not be getting an appropriate number of utility work crews.

In his afternoon briefing on the cleanup efforts from the superstorm that hit the state Monday and Tuesday, Malloy said he also has told leaders of CL&P and United Illuminating that he expects them to do all they can to get power mostly restored faster than their current estimate of Monday or Tuesday.

“I have communicated to both companies, in blunt fashion, that I want them to do better than that.”

Malloy said he’s also concerned about reports from some municipal leaders that they don’t have as many utility workers as were promised.

“I’m hearing some of the same complaints that I heard last year. One of the ones that bothers me the most is that what utility companies are telling me is not lining up with what mayors or first selectmen say is happening in their towns and I’ve asked for an accounting of that disconnect. I’m not sure who’s right and who’s wrong.”

At the same time, Malloy again asked residents and town leaders to be patient as workers toil to bring power back fully.

“This was a titanic event that only ended hours ago, not weeks.”

Under a new state law passed after last year’s two devastating storms, the utilities will be subjected to a state review of their response to Hurricane Sandy and the power outages. If the state finds that response lacking, Malloy said, both CL&P and United Illuminating could be subjected to fines.

“I want every resident of the state to know that there is a process to test (the companies) and that test will be undertaken.”

Malloy spoke twice today with President Barack Obama to discuss the state’s restoration progress, once privately and once in a conference call with other governors from other Northeast states affected by the storm.

The president, he said, has assured him that he will work to help Connecticut get a full disaster declaration. Currently, only the state’s four shoreline counties have been granted that designation by the federal government, Middlesex, Fairfield, New London and New Haven.

Other highlights of the governor’s briefing included:

  • There have been 29 confirmed carbon monoxide poisonings since the hurricane hit, 26 related to the use of generators in unventilated or poorly ventilated areas. Malloy again urged residents using generators to make sure they are outside and far enough away from windows or doors that the exhaust does not find its way inside.
  • He reiterated that financial assistance is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for residents, businesses and municipalities but registration is required. You can register by calling 800.621.FEMA, or 800.462.7585 for the hearing impaired.
  • The state has gotten $2 million in federal funding to repair state highways in Old Saybrook, West Haven and Bethel.
  • The state has issued a boil advisory for 69 small water systems in the state where the water might have been contaminated. Malloy said that despite the advisory, the vast majority of water in the state is safe to drink.
  • He again warned would-be price gougers that if they take advantage of the crisis in some communities to scam residents “we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”
  • He warned residents still waiting for power to come back on not to take their frustrations out on power line workers they encounter, saying he’s heard reports of some incidents of people yelling at linemen or stopping them to ask questions. “Please leave the line workers alone. It’s not their fault. They didn’t cause this storm, please let them do their jobs.”
kokopop November 02, 2012 at 12:11 PM
I think they are doing a terrific job....my power came back on last night and my boyfriends father still has no power but my god people they are doing the best they can....kudos to them all!
JE November 02, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Really, the guys on the lines are not the ones calling the shots. If you must be ticked at someone, be angry with the higher-ups. I agree the guys in the field are doing a great job. Many have left their homes in other parts of the country and beyond to help us. We should be thankful.
Vincent J. Averaimo November 02, 2012 at 01:49 PM
I agree that it appears that the utilitiy companies are doing everything they can. It is irresponsible to make comments like that of Mayor Bill Finch and now Gov. Malloy without any hard data to confirm such allegations. The resutls of such comments are to insight anger in certain locales and neighborhoods where we do not need such a response. We were told numerous times that this was a storm that we "have never seen before." Well preparing for something that has never occurred can be very difficult. At this time, I beleive everyone, most importantly our leaders should reserve judgment. If a reveiw uncovers intentional misrepresentations of fact, then our leaders should act promplty and with a heavy hand.
MikeS November 02, 2012 at 09:38 PM
I have two criticisms, and they are not with the effort of the line crews on the ground trying to restore power. The phone representatives for UI were telling customers as late as Wednesday evening that they were not allowed to relay any sort of estimate for when power might be restored. Personally, I am not pleased at all with this lack of transparency. There needed to be a better job of communicating something, anything in the way of an estimate earlier in the week than Thursday, and it would be great to know the nature of problems in specific locations that might influence any damage estimates. My family was in the process of making a decision to either travel to relatives or remain at home based on the information we got from UI on timing of power returning. All we wanted was a worst case estimate that could help shape our decision, and we were not able to get any helpful information at all. Also, it was announced right here on the Patch that UI had requested additional line crew from as far away as Michigan and Kansas City. If this storm was forecast so far in advance with potentially historic magnitude, how did UI not plan for the worst and bring in every available resource ~before~ hand instead of needing to revise their staffing 2-3 days after the storm broke? It's these types of management policies, limiting information to consumers and hedging bets regarding staffing levels to try to safe money that are going to end up getting the utility companies in trouble.
George Coulston November 03, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Vincent J. Averaimo, Learn how to spell incite you dork. Are'nt you a lawyer??? Damn glad your firm does'nt represent us any longer! :-(
Vincent J. Averaimo November 03, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Mr. Coulston: You are clearly missing the point, however, it further supports my point about irresponsible comments. Thank you.

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