AG Tong Escalates Legal Actions to Hold Eversource and UI Accountable for Failed Storm Response
Tong Files Motion Demanding that PURA Open a Contested Case to Enable Him to Seek Maximum Penalties as Soon as Possible(Hartford, CT) – In a series of motions filed Tuesday, Attorney General William Tong escalated his legal actions to hold Eversource and United Illuminating accountable for their failed storm response. In a motion before the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority – which by law serves as the principal regulator and legal forum in which to make claims against the utilities – Attorney General Tong demanded once again that PURA open a contested case and prudence review-- legal proceedings which would enable the Attorney General to make the strongest claims on behalf of ratepayers and the state; seek fines, penalties and injunctive relief; and oppose the utilities’ requests for profits and reimbursement of storm-related costs. Failure by PURA to do so at the onset of the investigation could “set the stage for an endless series of related proceedings taking years to reach conclusion,” Attorney General Tong cautioned.
Separately, Attorney General Tong filed his first series of interrogatories as part of PURA’s investigation, asking the companies for detailed information regarding their storm preparation and management.
Attorney General Tong filed a motion last Thursday urging PURA to expand the scope and structure of its investigation to allow for the strongest and swiftest possible penalties. PURA denied that motion Friday, and the Office of the Attorney General is now seeking reconsideration of that denial. Back in 2011, PURA similarly constrained the scope of its investigation, and pointed to those self-imposed limitations as the reason for fines that fell far short of what the Office of the Attorney General and ratepayers had demanded.
The Office of the Attorney General will be aggressively involved in every step of the PURA proceeding on behalf of ratepayers who deserve full accountability, including the potential for restitution for customer losses, fines and other penalties, for Eversource and United Illuminating’s failures.
“Consumers are justifiably outraged by the unacceptable response to this storm, and we are relying on PURA’s investigation for answers and accountability. After the 2011 storms, ratepayers invested millions of dollars in communications upgrades, tree trimming, and system resiliency to prevent exactly this kind of debacle. Why were Eversource and United Illuminating so woefully underprepared once again? They owe all of us a detailed explanation for their staffing policies, their weather forecasting, the models and simulations they used to test their IT systems, and more. PURA must clearly and unequivocally preserve all possible options to impose the strongest fines and penalties without delay. I will use the full weight of my authority throughout this investigation to hold Eversource and UI accountable for this stunning failure,” said Attorney General Tong.
The full list of questions is copied below.
1. Please provide a copy of your current Emergency Response Plan (“ERP”) together with all supporting documents.
2. Please provide a high-level summary of the Company’s management of Tropical Storm Isaias (the “Storm”) that occurred during the period August 2, 2020 up to and through complete system restoration and repair. Include the following:
a. A detailed timeline and description of the steps the Company took to prepare for the Storm, including what efforts were made when to solicit assistance from contractors and mutual assistance from other utilities;
b. Identify any factors unique to the Storm that hindered service restoration efforts;
c. Any factors that constrained resource deployment during restoration efforts; and
d. Descriptions of the methods the Company used to track, prioritize and repair outages during and after the Storm period. Include a detailed description of the methods the Company employed to efficiently coordinate its own crews, crews acquired by mutual assistance, contractors and town emergency response resources such as tree removal crews working for municipalities.
3. Please provide an accounting of the number of line crews and other personnel assigned to storm restoration duties (referred to herein as “work crews”) from August 3, 2020 through the completion of the restoration effort. Include at least one data point every eight hours throughout the Storm and restoration period. Provide this data differentiated by the smallest possible geographical level of detail. Include the Company’s own personnel, contractors, and line crews obtained through mutual assistance from other utilities. Additionally, state the maximum current number of Company field staff available for service restoration in Connecticut, differentiated by job function.
4. Please describe all advance preparations for the management, supervision and oversight of the work crews identified in response to AG-3.
5. Describe the management, supervision and oversight of the work crews identified in response to AG-3. Please include in this response:
a. any organizational charts reflecting the management structure responsible for the supervision of the work crews and other personnel assigned to storm duties;
b. the ratio of managers to work crews;
c. the criteria used to assign and re-assign work crews throughout the state;
d. a description of any systems in place to coordinate the management and assignment of work crews throughout the Company’s service territory; and
e. a description of any systems in place to facilitate communications between management and the work crews.
6. Describe the number of work crews assigned to storm duties in each work center, municipality, or other geographical designation applied by the Company during the storm response and restoration. Include at least one data point for every eight hours throughout the storm and restoration period.
7. Identify the managers and/or management groups that were responsible for the management, supervision and oversight of work crews in each work center, town, or other geographical designation applied by the Company during the storm response and restoration.
8. Provide a copy of the weather forecast(s) that was/were relied on by the Company for forecasting its lineworker staffing needs, for each day from August 1, 2020 through the end of the restoration effort.
9. For the period August 4, 2020 through the end of the restoration effort, separately identify the number of customers believed to have been without service, total and by town. Provide at least one data point every eight hours throughout this period.
10. Provide copies (in color) of the Outage Map (as presented on the Company’s website) as it existed during each day of the Storm period, from August 4, 2020 up to and through complete system restoration and repair.
11. Provide copies of all system status reports issued during the period from August 4 through the end of the restoration effort, including damage assessments.
12. Did the Company limit overtime or other compensation to its field staff during or after Storm? How? If so, explain the factors that led to that decision, and when that decision was made.
13. Please describe all Company policies concerning restrictions on line and tree crew shift lengths during the period August 4, 2020 up to and through complete system restoration and repair.
14. Please describe all Company policies concerning crew changes or crew relief at work sites.
15. Please provide a high-level summary of the performance of all third-party vendors or contractors the Company engaged to assist with all aspects of the Company’s Storm management during the period August 2, 2020 up to and through complete system restoration and repair. Describe in detail any vendor or third party’s performance that hindered or impeded the Company’s restoration efforts, communications or any other aspect of Storm management.
16. Provide the communications plan concerning interaction with public officials and emergency response agencies during a major storm service outage.
17. Provide all documents concerning the distribution and application of this communications plan from August 2, 2020 up to and through complete system restoration and repair.
18. Describe whether and how the communications plan was implemented and applied from August 2, 2020 up to and through complete system restoration and repair.
19. Identify all dedicated utility staff whose function it is to communicate with public officials and emergency responders and the communications duties and responsibilities assigned to these dedicated staff.
20. Describe when the criteria for initiating contacts with public officials and emergency first responders were satisfied from August 2, 2020 up to and through complete system restoration and repair.
21. Describe when contact with public officials and emergency first responders began concerning the Storm.
22. Describe any failures to initiate contact with public officials and emergency first responders during the as called for in the emergency response plan and describe the reasons for any such failures.
23. Describe all efforts to establish and maintain communications with news media and customers in the affected areas from August 2, 2020 up to and through complete system restoration and repair.
24. Please describe the performance of the company’s telephone and internet services to customers for both reporting outages by customers and for informing customers and the public of the status of restoration efforts.
25. Please describe the frequency and nature of all simulation (field, tabletop or other) exercises you perform with your storm preparation protocols, including your internet and phone customer response systems, as well as the maximum number of outages these simulations are designed to prepare for. Please provide all results from these exercises.
26. Please provide the numbers of full time trained lineworkers employed by the Company on January 1 for the years 2010 through 2020. Provide the numbers that were budgeted in the Company’s relevant rate proceedings for those years. Please provide an explanation for any discrepancies in those numbers.
Assistant Attorneys General Lauren Bidra, John Wright and Consumer Protection Department Head Michael Wertheimer are assisting the Attorney General in this matter.