By STEPHEN SINGER, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut’s largest utility is handling large-scale power outages following Superstorm Sandy as it did after last year’s destructive autumn snow storm in nearly every way but one: no restoration projections.
Standing with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman at daily briefings, a Connecticut Light & Power executive has provided updates about restoring power, staffing of line workers and tree trimmers and other details.
But senior vice president Bill Quinlan would not answer a question
Tuesday about when CL&P expects power to be fully restored.
“Not at this point,” he said.
The Berlin-based utility is assessing the extent of the damage, evaluating what it has available to make repairs “and then, just as soon as possible, we’ll come out with our initial restoration projections,” he said.
By holding out on promises for restoring power, CL&P avoids the criticism that followed a pledge last year by Jeffrey Butler, then-president and chief operating officer, that 99 percent of power would be restored by Nov. 6, a week after the start of the Oct. 29, 2011, storm. Power was not fully restored until Nov. 9, drawing criticism from Malloy and other state officials who were furious that hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses remained in the cold and the dark for more than a week.
Butler resigned soon after, state investigations ensued and Connecticut lawmakers and Malloy enacted legislation giving regulators tighter oversight.
Without providing details, Malloy said at Tuesday’s briefing that he reminded utilities of their duty to restore electricity.
“I’ve made clear to the utility companies that their job is to get that power back as quickly as possible and they understand that, I assure you,” the governor said.
A spokesman would not elaborate on what exactly Malloy said or when.
John Hampton, Deputy First Selectman in Simsbury, said the town has not received “definitive answers” from CL&P about when power will be restored. More than 4,000 customers are without power, about 40 percent of CL&P customers in the town.
“Last time they over-estimated,” he said. “This time around they’re not saying anything.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, CL&P reported that about 478,000 residents and businesses statewide were without power, 38 percent of its 1.2 million customers. United Illuminating, which serves customers in shoreline towns battered by surging sea water from Long Island Sound, reported outages affecting about 148,000 customers, 46 percent of its customers.
Last year, Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman said town officials disregarded the utility’s timetables and advised residents to not expect power back soon.
Hampton said the situation now is helped by warmer weather and less extensive outages. For example, he said, gas stations and restaurants are open, unlike last year when nearly all businesses were without power and closed.
Still, he said, after only one day with no electricity, “people are getting restless.”
CL&P has launched extensive tree-trimming in Connecticut to protect wires from falling limbs and reached out to towns to improve communication.
Fillmore McPherson, First Selectman for the shoreline town of Madison, where 88 percent of customers were without power on Tuesday, said CL&P “appears to be more proactive this time.”
The utility assigned line workers and a tree crew to work with town public works employees on Monday before the weather became too dangerous to be outdoors, he said. But he said it’s too early to fully judge CL&P’s cooperation.
“It’s only one day, so we’ll see,” he said.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)