As criticism mounts about the number of linemen utilities have out trying to get the lights back on across Connecticut, the governor’s top energy official has finally found time to meet with a union official who tried to bring the problem to the administration’s attention.
That meeting—between Frank Cirillo, business manager of IBEW Local 420; and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel C. Esty, a favorite on the utility industry’s paid consultant and speaker payroll—is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Cirillo had been trying to get that meeting ever since Tropical Storm Irene ravaged the state and plunged hundreds of thousands of homes into darkness. He sent two letters to Malloy. Malloy never responded but forwarded the request to Esty. After crews turned out to be undermanned for this past weekend’s freak snowstorm, Cirillo branded the governor an “idiot” for ignoring the warnings.
Esty said Tuesday that it had all been a mistake. His staff had mistaken the union official with another man by the same name—a Democratic Party boss. Esty did meet with that Frank Cirillo.
The meeting, which was supposed to take place after Tropical Storm Irene, was initially ignored until Frank Cirillo, business manager of IBEW Local 420, spoke about it with CT News Junkie Monday.
Those developments occurred amid a fast-moving backdrop of events Tuesday, as officials revealed that it may take longer than a week for Connecticut Light & Power to get power restored to the last of some 800,000 customers in the state that lost electricity.
Speaking on WNPR’s Where We Live, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton echoed Cirillo’s concerns about CL&P having too few linemen in the field. Half of Danbury remains without power.
“The bottom line here is that CL&P does not have enough workers working for them,” Boughton said. “Everybody’s afraid to say that the emperor has no clothes. But the emperor has no clothes. It’s time in this state where we pay the highest electric rates in the country that we demand better services from our utility providers. It’s just that simple.”
Boughton, who was the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor last year, went even further.
“Maybe we shouldn’t be paying multimillion dollar salaries to the top executives in that organization and maybe we ought to go back and take some of that money and plow it back into maintenance and plow it back into repair crews, which is really what the end user experiences.”
After ignoring those warnings for months, the Malloy administration began acknowledging them Tuesday.
After touring the L.P. Wilson Community Center in Windsor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he’s hearing from a lot of people they believe there’s a need for more linemen.
“That’s why we have the Irene committee and that’s why the Irene committee or another committee is going to have to take a look at this incident and make some recommendations here,” Malloy said.
He said he has not discharged the committee looking at the state’s preparedness and response for Tropical Storm Irene, so it’s possible the response to this storm could be added to their agenda.
“There are things that we learned during Irene that are already being implemented in this storm, so the idea that we can build upon our experiences is one I absolutely support and I think we can get that done,” Malloy said.
Tuesday morning, after a briefing at the state’s Emergency Operations Center, Esty said he didn’t intentionally ignore Cirillo’s request for a meeting. His staff just didn’t know there are two Frank Cirillos, he claimed. Esty said he had a meeting scheduled with Frank Cirillo of Meriden, who sits on the Democratic Town Committee there, so his staff didn’t know to set up an additional meeting with Frank Cirillo who works for the IBEW.
“They saw the name Frank Cirillo on the schedule and assumed I had already met with him,” Esty said.
Esty’s spokesman said the meeting with Cirillo of Meriden was not related to linemen staffing.
The two will meet in Waterbury at the union’s offices Wednesday morning.
Earlier Tuesday Malloy and Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional delegation asked the U.S. Department of Energy to intervene and make sure the state receives enough out-of-state mutual aid.
U.S. Department of Energy’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Security and Energy Restoration Bill Bryan said the local utilities have been overwhelmed by this storm.
“If you look at the outages in Connecticut, which basically equals the outages of all the other places combined, you really don‘t have yet a fair distribution of workers from mutual assistance teams out here doing this,” Bryan said Tuesday at an afternoon press conference in the Emergency Operations Center.
With 6,000 workers expected to help out with the outages across the northeast, Bryan said he will be making some calls to make sure Connecticut gets the number of workers it needs.
“We are a little bit disappointed,” Malloy said.