(Updated 5 p.m.) In what could be seen as another communications failure for Northeast Utilities, the parent company of Connecticut Light & Power, a press release calling for a conference call with the media went out minutes before the telephone conference was held. Only two reporters were on the call.
In the press release announcing the conference call, Charles W. Shivery, president and CEO of Northeast Utilities, offered an apology and announced the establishment of a fund to help its customers impacted by the October snowstorm.
“I understand the hardship that this has caused, and I realize that we did not meet the goals that we set for ourselves and upon which many of our customers relied, and for that I apologize,” Shivery said in the press release.
“An apology, however, is only the first of the measures we will take,” Shivery said. “I have spoken extensively with Governor Malloy and told him we will continue to take action to meet our customers’, his and our own expectations.”
To that end Shivery offered Malloy $10 million from NU and the Northeast Utilities Foundation to establish a fund to directly assist CL&P residential customers who experienced losses as a result of the recent natural disaster. It’s unclear what exactly the fund will pay for.
“The governor appreciates what NU has offered to do, and believes it’s a good first step in the right direction,” Colleen Flanagan, Malloy’s spokeswoman, said Wednesday.
Understanding the damage caused by this historic storm, CL&P will also provide additional resources to help with residual tree-trimming and clean up, at no cost to cities and towns impacted by the Oct. 29 storm, according to the press release.
In addition, to further enhance future storm response, Shivery indicated to Malloy that NU would pay for the hiring of an independent, third-party firm to conduct a more comprehensive review of the company’s preparedness and response to snowstorm, and assist with the implementation of appropriate recommendations.
This additional independent, third-party assessment would be in addition to the one Malloy ordered which will be conducted by the former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt. The firm to be hired by NU would be selected after an open bidding process, according to the press release.
Earlier this week, Shivery called Thomas Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute – the electric utility industry trade association – and asked the organization to review the mutual aid process.
After the first 48 hours after the storm it was evident to Malloy and others in the Emergency Operations Center that out-of-state mutual aid was slow in getting to the state. However, it’s unclear if it’s because of out-of-state companies’ past experience with CL&P during Tropical Storm Irene or whether companies were required to stop in the first state in need of assistance. Surrounding northeast states such as Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Jersey were also impacted by the storm, but had fewer power outages than Connecticut.
In addition to the independent review, $10 million, and the waiving of late fees through the end of the year, the company will also be putting more money toward tree trimming, Northeast Utilities spokeswoman Marie van Luling said.
She said there hasn’t been a dollar amount announced yet, but she said the company is looking to invest more in its tree trimming efforts. She said as part of these reviews the state needs to look at its own policies and decide how much we have the right to trim. She said that’s something policymakers need to look at and determine what makes sense for the state.
As of 4 p.m. Wednesday there were just 2,500 customers without power and van Luling expressed confidence the company will meet its midnight deadline.