House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. on Friday called for a special legislative session to pass legislation requiring additional utility work crews, minimum staffing levels, and other initiatives he says will shorten future outages.
His call for a special session comes as Connecticut Light and Power continues to struggle to restore power to hundreds of thousands of customers in the aftermath of Saturday’s Nor’Easter, which left more than 800,000 in the dark.
Cafero said the goal is to get new laws on the books in December to minimize the potential for power outages caused by winter storms in the months before the General Assembly meets again in February.
“…We should come back in special session by December to pass legislation that will bolster our state’s response to natural disasters and shorten the time anyone is without power,’’ Cafero said in a statement.
He asked that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Democratic leaders in the legislature set up the session as soon as possible. Cafero proposed some ideas he said could shorten the amount of time residents are without power after a storm including:
-Increasing the staffing capacity of utilities so more crews are available to clear debris from roads and restore power.
-Requiring utilities to train and maintain stand-by crews. Those crews could be made up of emergency personnel and retired utility workers, he said.
-Requiring that mutual aid agreements with other utility companies include strict timelines that dictate how many crews will come and how soon they will arrive.
-Increasing the use of fuel cells so the state has access to more energy that is “off the grid.”
The bipartisan jobs session in October demonstrated that Connecticut Democrats and Republicans can successfully work together, Cafero said. They should also be able to work together to ensure residents don’t go without power for longer than they need to, he said.
Cafero said in addition to his ideas he would like to consider a proposal by House Speaker Chris Donovan and Energy & Technology Co-Chairwoman Rep. Vickie Nardello, that requires utility companies to meet benchmarked performance standards or face millions of dollars in fines.
“The legislature can and must act now before the storm season really sets in to mitigate the possibility for another crisis this winter. We have been hit with two major storms within two months, so the need to act is pretty clear,’’ Cafero said.
Democratic leaders were not immediately available for comment.
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