Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is not known to mince words, told the CEO of Connecticut Light & Power’s parent company that it had let down the people of Connecticut by failing to meet its own standards.
In phone conversations with Northeast Utilities President and Chief Operating Officer Charles W. Shivery, Malloy said he told him that “his handling of this entire situation has been unacceptable. It’s taken too long to get power back on.”
“There have been too many problems and its time for him to change the way his operation is being managed,” Malloy said at a press conference outside his office Monday.
Distancing himself even further from CL&P President Jeff Butler, Malloy held a press conference a full hour ahead of another one scheduled for Butler at 6 p.m. at the state Armory. Earlier this week, Malloy started leaving Butler alone at the podium during the daily press briefings.
Malloy said Shivery told him senior management from the company would be on the ground closer to where the decisions are being made in the hardest hit areas of the state near work centers in Simsbury and Tolland. Butler said Shivery has been at their emergency operation headquarters in Berlin since the start of the storm. He said he meets with him regularly. Shivery was not on the 7 a.m. investors call Monday morning.
“They have been instrumental in the management team with CL&P as we continue to move forward with this event,” Butler said.
But despite layers of senior management overseeing the restoration effort, Malloy is unimpressed.
“I think they have a gigantic credibility problem — that’s what makes this all the more difficult,” Malloy said of the independent review his office ordered. “There’s no one to blame but themselves.”
Charles Fisher, vice president of Preparedness Operations for Witt Associates, said his company will have about six people in the state this week examining CL&P’s emergency operation plans. He said they also will be interviewing employees and managers, examining wire down protocols, damage assessment, and finding out how the company did managing its contractors and mutual aid contracts. The same questions will be asked of United Illuminating, which serves about 17 towns in the New Haven area.
The review will be completed by Dec. 1.
Local elected officials have been vocal about their inability to communicate with CL&P, which has been one of the biggest frustrations for Malloy, who spent several days touring the damage.
“It’s clear to me by my observation of how CL&P failed to see the gravity of the situation in towns I have personally visited,” Malloy said.
Does the state have a recourse?
“They are a monopoly and a monopoly is a trust with the people that they serve. They have failed to honor that trust in these circumstances,” Malloy said.
He said the state could look at opening dockets within the Public Utility Regulatory Authority to change how CL&P operates and who pays for its operations. He said the state can raise serious questions through the regulatory process.
“CL&P has let the people of Connecticut down. They failed to meet the standard they identified after we had raised our frustration with them,” Malloy said.
Malloy also left the door open to a special session.
Asked if Butler should resign, Malloy said he thinks that’s a good question once everyone gets their power back on. He said it’s also a good question for the leadership of the company.
During Monday’s 6 p.m. press conference, Butler tried to use three graphs to demonstrate the number of trouble areas seen in this storm as compared to Irene. However he continued to repeat that the company will do an internal review and welcomes any outside review of the storm response and preparation.
What he thinks they’ll find isn’t much different from the high marks his company gave itself following its response to Irene.
“I think they will show in many areas we have strengths. I also know that they’ll show areas where we need to improve upon some of our weaknesses,” Butler said.
He said he knows communications is an area they need to improve upon in order to meet the needs of every town. It’s an issue that has lead to most of the frustration amongst the town leaders, like Bloomfield’s Mayor Sydney Schulman.
“I’m not going to say I’m disappointed because I don’t think it’s a question of disappointment. It’s a question of a screwed up process, ladies and gentleman, a process that has been screwed up from the beginning,” Schulman said Monday.
Butler said he’s heard the complaints from the town officials and has been on the conference calls every morning.
“I understand why, and I personally apologize for CL&P not meeting the needs of the towns,” Butler said Monday.
He said many of those challenges in communicating with town leaders came up during Tropical Storm Irene. However, Irene happened less than 60 days ago and the company has not yet completed its review of that process, nor has it had time to implement changes.
“I know there’s a lot of people who are unhappy with me personally, and frustrated and angry with CL&P,“ Butler said. “I only ask that you support the hardworking men and women working around the clock to get everybody restored.”
As of 7:17 p.m. Monday, more than 42,000 customers were still without electricity.