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Sen. Norm Needleman (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

ROCKY HILL, CT — Sen. Norm Needleman, who co-chairs the Energy and Technology Committee, said Saturday that Eversource Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer James J. Judge should step down.

After several days, dozens of roads remain blocked and thousands of customers wait without power in his district and with hundreds of blocked roads and hundreds of thousands of customers without power statewide.

“When Eversource requested hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to make improvements to the state’s electric grid, it’s easy to ask where that money went, seeing the response to Tropical Storm Isaias,” Needleman said. “This is an epic failure on the part of Eversource, but it has been decades in the making, with a dwindling on-the-ground workforce and a desire to create an almost virtual company.

Mitch Gross, a spokesman for Eversource, didn’t respond directly to Needleman’s suggestion.

“As with all storms, we will participate in an after-action review with regulators and community stakeholders to evaluate our approach to emergency response efforts and storm restoration,” Gross said. “But today we’re focused on one thing – doing everything we can do to restore power to our customers.”

Eversource says it still plans to have a substantial number of customers with their lights back on by Tuesday, but as of Saturday morning more than 290,000 were still without electricity with the forecast calling for three days of heat and humidity in Connecticut. Town-by-town restoration information won’t be available until Saturday night.

Eversource executives, who underestimated the number of outages before Tropical Storm Isaias hit, say they have 1,600 crews working on restoring power to the grid. The utility only had about 450 line crews 24 hours after the storm and had to increase its mutual aid requests to other states.

Eversource estimates it will have power restored to the “vast majority” of customers by late Tuesday night —  a full week after Tropical Storm Isaias hit the state.

Based on documents it submitted to regulators earlier this year, the utility should have had 750 to 1,200 crews pre-positioned to respond once the storm ended. The duration of the storm was not long, but the number of trees it brought down on power lines was significant.

Local elected officials have expressed disappointment in the response that left some towns with a single crew to de-energize lines and allow tree and town crews to clear roads.

On Friday, Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe called Eversource’s response “woefully inadequate.”

Several roads remain blocked and he said emergency crews cannot get to homes and residents with safety equipment.

“We have lives at risk,” Marpe said.

As of Saturday afternoon, trees were still blocking roads and traffic lights were still out in many parts of the state.

Eversource crews were working on clearing Gilbert and Butternut Streets in Rocky Hill.

Eversource opened up six satellite command centers in the hardest-hit regions of Connecticut: Berlin, Cheshire, Madison, Norwalk, Tolland, and Torrington. These local centers supplement Eversource’s regular work centers, reducing materials bottlenecks and providing more efficient deployment of crews through a more localized approach.

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Ryan Kulbacki, a linemen with Eversource (ctnewsjunkie photo)

Linemen from other states who were unable to speak on the record said they’ve been struggling to get instructions from Eversource about the next assignment.

Frank Poirot, a spokesman for Eversource, said there’s a lot happening at this point in the restoration and a location they may have been assigned to may have already been taken by another crew.

“We are trying to get them up to assignments that are in their area,” Poirot said. “There’s going to be a little bit of that when you get so many people into a restoration like this. We’re resolving it as we speak.”

The damage is extensive and linemen don’t have to travel far to their next assignment.

“It’s just time-consuming because you have to manage a lot of crews that are working in the same area and maintain their safety,” Ryan Kulbacki, an Eversource lineman from New Hampshire, said Saturday.

He said they have had enough access to equipment to get their job done, however, “we might have to do something differently if we’re using a large amount of stock.” 

He said they’ve had to improvise to get the power back on in some locations. He said the damage they are finding has been “pretty devastated,” and they’re taking a long time in a lot of spots trying to clean up the “heavy damage.”

Craig Hallstrom, Eversource’s president of regional electric operations, said Friday that he expects that by the time it is over, this will be the second-worst outage event for his company.

“A lot of damage real fast,” Hallstrom said.

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storm damage in Hadlyme (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

He said more than 800,000 customers were impacted by this storm.

That’s about the same amount who were knocked off the grid by both Tropical Storm Irene and the October 2011 snowstorm.

Head of Energy Committee Calls For Eversource CEO To Resign

Today’s briefing video from Eversource took place in Berlin, CT starting with Ryan Kulbacki, of Eversource-New Hampshire, followed by Frank J. Poirot, from Eversource’s Media Relations team in Connecticut.

And here’s our story on the status of the storm response: Head of Energy Committee Calls For Eversource CEO To Resign – READ: https://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/20200808_head_of_energy_committee_calls_for_eversource_ceo_to_resign/

Posted by CTNewsJunkie on Saturday, August 8, 2020