General Assembly Easily Passes New Utility Measure in Response to Rates and Outages

Easton’s Legislators Agree With Some Reservations

First, it was the Connecticut House of Representatives voting in special session on Wednesday for utility-regulation reform by a vote of 136-4 with 11 not voting. The Senate followed on Thursday with the unanimous support of those voting, 35-0.

For state Rep. Anne Hughes (D-Easton, Redding, Weston), the vote was a first step toward making power companies beholden to ratepayers, not shareholders. For Sen. Tony Hwang (R-Easton, Fairfield, Newtown, Westport) also, the vote was a good start on one needed reform but left others unaddressed. 

“The ‘Take Back Our Grid’ bill is not as comprehensive as we first envisioned but is a critical first step that we can take right now in this emergency special session,” Hughes said in a press release. “It was important for us to act now, in response to public demand that we hold our power monopolies more accountable to the ratepayers and increase the oversight framework that has restricted our ability to prohibit utility rate hikes and handle storm response so poorly in the midst of this global pandemic.”

“The bills handled at today’s session, while important in their own right, lacked any mention of the looming budget deficit, business closures, nursing home management, or any other true emergencies that our state faces during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Hwang said in a press release. “That said, I voted today in support of HB 7006 because it sets up the framework to start enacting some real reform when it comes to Connecticut’s public utilities and its disastrous treatment of its customers. It is a start to address the trauma and frustration experiences by consumers this summer as they received dramatically increased billing rates or sat in the dark, some for over a week.”

Among the measures adopted in the utility-regulation reform measure are mandates that will require power companies to set higher standards to meet in their storm responses and be subject to new civil penalties for failure to meet these standards.

A deadline of Jan. 1 has been set under the new legislation for the power companies, Eversource and United Illuminating, to report their storm-preparation plans to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA). 

In the event that power-company preparations and responses fail to prevent extended outages, the legislation requires them to pay $25 for each day that a power outage lasts more than 96 consecutive hours, as well as to provide consumers up to $250 for food and medicine losses under the same conditions. 

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