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Butler Apologizes For Missing Sunday Deadline

by Christine Stuart | Nov 6, 2011 8:47pm
(2) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Weather

Christine Stuart file photo

Jeffrey Butler, president and chief operating officer, Connecticut Light & Power

Jeffrey Butler, president and chief operating officer of Connecticut Light & Power, maintains that his company made a lot of progress even though it won’t meet its midnight goal.  And he offered an apology for missing that deadline.

“This was a storm of historic proportion. It was the right decision, I stand behind that decision to set, to establish the goal. We did everything possible to achieve the goal. People worked very hard for what 8 days now and we need to see this through,” Butler said defending his decision to self-impose a deadline which his company missed.

“I’ll close off by apologizing for the fact that we have not met the expectations for ourselves that we set and certainly for our customers because we’re here to serve our customers,” Butler said before exiting the briefing room at the state Armory.

Those comments came after he talked about the magnitude of the October Nor’Easter, which caused more than 830,000 CL&P customers to spend days in the dark.

“It was, from everything I’ve heard, the most significant winter storm, even though it happened in October than probably the last 500 years,” Butler said. “Nobody’s seen an event like this since the 1600s.”

But Butler’s apology may have come too late for U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

“People are fed up with false reassurances that have shredded CL&P’s credibility and now defy credulity,” Blumenthal said.

“The company’s failure to adequately plan and prepare - and meet its own deadlines - has led to an historic breakdown of power and public trust,” he said. “Cascading recent failures are further evidence that a comprehensive federal investigation is urgently needed. Members of our congressional delegation are seeking such an investigation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  As I have traveled the state talking to public officials, emergency responders, homeowners, and business people, the consensus is clear: CL&P must be held accountable and fundamental changes made before the next storm strikes.”

As of 6 p.m. 88,000 customers were still without power and about 6,800 of those outages were unrelated to the storm.

“I will say that we still believe we will achieve 100 percent restoration by Wednesday evening,” Butler said.

Salisbury, Hartland, Barkhamsted, New Hartford, Washington, and Roxbury are the towns which won’t see power restored to 99 percent of its customers tonight. However, Simsbury, West Hartford, Farmington, Canton, Avon, Bloomfield, Somers, Stafford, Union and Tolland were showing outages upwards of 60 percent in some instances as of 6 p.m. Sunday.

“I expect them to go significantly down,” Butler said.

West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka, who has been critical of CL&P’s response and communications, said Sunday that he doesn’t believe 60 percent of his town is without power— although he had no way of confirming that. He said there have been 50 crews in town all day and they’re seeing a number of customers restored, however, he has not been told how many will remain out of power for a ninth night.

Slifka said he’s been told that when electricity is switched back on, some customers who have been restored will go down while others are brought back online.

Butler attributed the increase in outages to the process called “switching,” where lines are switched off to allow crews to work on them before being turned back on the rest of a street.

It could also be that power has been restored to an area, but a handful of homes haven’t been restored. Butler said that could be a transformer issue and that’s why he’s encouraging all homeowners to call in because they won’t know a specific customer is out unless they receive a phone call.

Asked why he would set an unachievable goal for the company, Butler said he stands behind his decision to set a midnight deadline.

“Looking at what we knew, we established what we thought was an aggressive, but achievable 99 percent restoration,” Butler said. “I stand behind the decisions we made at that time.”

But it’s still hard for West Hartford residents like Zacharie Maloney to understand why the power hasn’t come back on when he lives on a street where there are no trees down and no wires hanging.

He said power was restored to Prospect Avenue, one of the cross streets, on Wednesday. He said when he calls the CL&P outage hotline he continues to be told power will be restored at 11:45 p.m. Sunday.

Other residents were told there power wasn’t going to restored until midnight Sunday and were pleasantly surprised when the lights came back on unexpectedly.

Butler said the information takes a little time to get updated to the outage map.

Meanwhile, 42 shelters remained open Sunday. An estimated 2,100 residents stayed in shelters on Saturday night, while others took refuge in hotels or stayed with family and friends in other parts of the state.

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(2) Comments

posted by: ... | November 6, 2011  9:10pm

...

Butler can at least be right in some of their significant drops. In the case of Tolland, it had a high of 47/49% today, and is currently at 39% and dropping.

However you only need to check out Rep. Hurburt’s Twitter feed to show the anger/frustration over the restorations. He found a dozen trucks were right outside the border of Tolland off I-84, ready to go, yet were being directed to 4 potential towns even though they were right next to one in the upper tier of outages. They went to South Windsor, which had similar numbers of outages, but 21% out.

This is a story that will be told and retold by residents statewide of the failure of CL&P to properly manage and inform the general public and state officials of the process. This of course, will all come at the expected second special session before 2012.

Of course we should give some slack to the company for its failings. This storm and the current wiring of out electrical grid is so flimsy that the only real reform that could prevent another Snoctober (I’ve hear that is a potential name for this debacle) is to begin converting our residential lines to underground feeds. And with trees galore, extensive outages were likely. But their issues of expediency, efficiency, public relations, and unapologetic executive arrogance will not be unnoticed or unscathed any less than it is now.

posted by: Doug Hardy | November 6, 2011  9:26pm

Plenty of problems to go around - South Windsor may be lower in terms of percent who are out, but in some cases you’ve got whole I-Parks that are shut down without power, and small business owners are facing the possibility of jobs disappearing when all is said and done. Here’s a report from South Windsor from SeeClickFix.

There’s a lot more at stake than convenience or even immediate warmth and hot water.