PURA Establishes Standardized Process to Address Structurally Compromised Utility Poles
Ruling is part of multi-pronged approach to step up enforcement of double pole situations, pole attachments, and transfers
(New Britain, CT – July 6, 2022) – Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA or the Authority) today issued a final decision establishing a standardized process to identify and address structurally compromised utility poles.
Today’s final decision in Docket No. 21-11-05 requires pole custodians and entities with attachments on the pole (licensees) to implement and comply with a new Structurally Compromised Pole Process. This approach will replace and standardize internal procedures currently used by pole custodians.
Under the Structurally Compromised Pole Process, the Authority, among other orders, directs pole custodians to:
Comply with the new process after receiving notice either directly from a customer or through PURA’s Office of Education, Outreach, & Enforcement (EOE) regarding a potentially structurally compromised
Inspect the potentially compromised pole within 48 hours after being
Remove a pole that the pole custodian representative determines is structurally compromised within 10 days of the initial and
Allow EOE and the Office of Consumer Counsel to access internal reporting systems on or before Aug. 8, 2022.
As a critical enforcement measure, the Authority announced that pole custodians will be subject to financial consequences if a pole identified through this process subsequently fails, absent an intervening event ( storm), if the pole custodian asserted that the pole was safe and not in need of replacement. Financial consequences may include the prohibition of recovering expenses associated with the pole failure and replacement in a future rate proceeding and the imposition of civil penalties.
In 2021, pole custodians, including Eversource, United Illuminating, Frontier Communications, and Verizon, replaced more than 580 poles that were deteriorated, unsafe, or in immediate danger of falling. The Authority has broad statutory powers with respect to approximately 900,000 utility pole structures across the state.
“Utility poles are a critical asset not just for the delivery of safe and reliable electric are increasingly important to the provision of competitive and affordable wireline and wireless telecommunications and cable services too,” said PURA Chairman Marissa P. Gillett. “That is why PURA is accelerating its multi-pronged approach to addressing pole integrity and pole access issues in this state – to ensure the safety of our communities and a standardized approach statewide.”
PURA expanded its investigations into the management of utility pole assets after receiving complaints in November 2021 that raised concerns about potentially structurally compromised poles in Simsbury and Avon. After reviewing the complaints, EOE requested the Authority investigate whether the poles pose a danger to public safety, and to establish a standardized process by which pole custodians either verify that broken or otherwise damaged poles do not pose a threat to public safety or remove the poles on an expedited basis.
In recent years, the Authority initiated several proceedings that address pole issues generally. Those dockets include addressing a backlog of existing double poles and adopting a single-visit transfer process (Docket No. 21-07-29), as well as modernizing and streamlining the pole attachment application and one-touch-make-ready process (Docket No. 19-01-52RE01).