Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the Public Utility Regulatory Authority will be asked to take another look at Connecticut Light & Power’s minimum staffing levels, but it will have to wait until the 430,000 customers get their lights turned back on.
During a morning briefing, the governor said he will continue to hold the state’s largest utility to its daily restoration goals before revisiting this 2008 decision which set minimum staffing levels for the company.
According to the 2008 ruling CL&P had 653 linemen working for it in 2007. Today, a spokeswoman said it has 204 crews made up mostly of two people. The math indicates that the company has 245 fewer linemen working for it now than it did just three years ago.
Malloy said Thursday that CL&P’s staffing levels, which last were set by the 2008 ruling should be reassessed.
“I’m not saying they made the right decision. I’ll point out to you that I was not governor at the time the DPUC decided on what the right number of crews to be retained by the utilities were and that included contract employees,” Malloy said.
The 2008 report by the former Department of Public Utility Control expressed concern with the average age of the linemen eligible for retirement.
“In 2003, 23 percent of all lineworkers were eligible for retirement, with that number rising to 44 percent by 2008 of the then-existing lineworker population,” the report found. “The Department therefore allowed CL&P funding for incremental hiring to ensure adequate staffing in future years and required annual reporting on lineworker staffing to enable the Department to determine whether CL&P was meeting its hiring goals.”
The report also indicated “that CL&P met its hiring goals in subsequent years.”
The report goes onto say that CL&P and United Illuminating’s staffing was “adequate,” but that both should prepare for future shortages due to the high volume of anticipated retirements.
And while staffing levels during storms relies largely on out-of-state help through mutual aid agreements, the report found “It does not make financial sense to hire enough lineworkers to allow for the manpower necessary to perform outages restoration that results from severe storm conditions, since a large number of lineworkers is necessary to restore service after such a storm, and these workers would spend the bulk of their time with no tasks to perform.”
A total of 1,479 line and tree crews were working on restoring 430,000 customers Thursday. Jeffrey Butler, president and chief operating officer of CL&P, maintained that his company has enough crews on the property on a daily basis to meet its operating needs.
The company said earlier this week that it has had trouble getting crews from other states, but maintains that it called out-of-state crews as early as Saturday.
However, Dominion said Thursday that they were called on Monday and were able to get crews from Virginia to the state by Wednesday.
The call for help came Monday afternoon and the workers were on the road early Tuesday morning as part of a “mutual aid” agreement that exists among electric utilities in the United States, a press release from Dominion said.
There were allegations that CL&P had not paid out-of-state contractors who came to help out with restoration during Tropical Storm Irene.
Butler said the invoices are received, and reviewed to “ensure the prudence of all costs in there.”
“Of the companies we utilized during Tropical Storm Irene the majority of those crews or companies that had people available this storm came back,” Butler said Thursday.
Following Tropical Storm Irene CL&P Chief Financial Officer David McHale told the Associated Press that the Aug. 28 storm was the costliest ever for the Hartford-based utility, with about 800,000 customers losing power at the peak of the storm.
The AP goes onto report that the company decided to finance the costs through its credit line until it’s able to go through the rate review process.
A spokeswoman for CL&P said Thursday that’s it’s too early to say how the company will handle the cost of the storm. She said all the company’s attention is being focused on restoration efforts.
Butler estimated the cost of the October storm would be at least $75 to $100 million “minimum.”
But the company has not submitted a request to state regulators for the cost of Irene, so it’s uncertain how much of the cost of the storm it will ask to pass along to its customers.
The company retains a $15 million insurance policy for storm-related incidents, which carries a $10 million deductible, according to the head of the Public Utility Regulatory Authority. The insurance information was shared during a post-Irene public hearing.