For the first time since Hurricane Sandy blew a swath of destruction through Connecticut, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is questioning the response by the state's two main utility companies to widespread power outages and warning that both could be censured by regulators if that response is found lacking.
While calling on the 217,000 residents who are still without power following Hurricane Sandy to be patient while they wait for their lights to come back on, Malloy today said he is troubled by reports that some towns might not be getting an appropriate number of utility work crews.
In his afternoon briefing on the cleanup efforts from the superstorm that hit the state Monday and Tuesday, Malloy said he also has told leaders of CL&P and United Illuminating that he expects them to do all they can to get power mostly restored faster than their current estimate of Monday or Tuesday.
“I have communicated to both companies, in blunt fashion, that I want them to do better than that.”
Malloy said he’s also concerned about reports from some municipal leaders that they don’t have as many utility workers as were promised.
“I’m hearing some of the same complaints that I heard last year. One of the ones that bothers me the most is that what utility companies are telling me is not lining up with what mayors or first selectmen say is happening in their towns and I’ve asked for an accounting of that disconnect. I’m not sure who’s right and who’s wrong.”
At the same time, Malloy again asked residents and town leaders to be patient as workers toil to bring power back fully.
“This was a titanic event that only ended hours ago, not weeks.”
Under a new state law passed after last year’s two devastating storms, the utilities will be subjected to a state review of their response to Hurricane Sandy and the power outages. If the state finds that response lacking, Malloy said, both CL&P and United Illuminating could be subjected to fines.
“I want every resident of the state to know that there is a process to test (the companies) and that test will be undertaken.”
Malloy spoke twice Thursday with President Barack Obama to discuss the state’s restoration progress, once privately and once in a conference call with other governors from other Northeast states affected by the storm.
The president, Malloy said, has assured him that he will work to help Connecticut get a full disaster declaration. Currently, only the state’s four shoreline counties have been granted that designation by the federal government, Middlesex, Fairfield, New London and New Haven.
Other highlights of the governor’s briefing included:
- There have been 29 confirmed carbon monoxide poisonings since the hurricane hit, 26 related to the use of generators in unventilated or poorly ventilated areas. Malloy again urged residents using generators to make sure they are outside and far enough away from windows or doors that the exhaust does not find its way inside.
- He reiterated that financial assistance is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for residents, businesses and municipalities but registration is required. You can register by calling 800.621.FEMA, or 800.462.7585 for the hearing impaired.
- The state has gotten $2 million in federal funding to repair state highways in Old Saybrook, West Haven and Bethel.
- The state has issued a boil advisory for 69 small water systems in the state where the water might have been contaminated. Malloy said that despite the advisory, the vast majority of water in the state is safe to drink.
- He again warned would-be price gougers that if they take advantage of the crisis in some communities to scam residents “we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”
- He warned residents still waiting for power to come back on not to take their frustrations out on power line workers they encounter, saying he’s heard reports of some incidents of people yelling at linemen or stopping them to ask questions. “Please leave the line workers alone. It’s not their fault. They didn’t cause this storm, please let them do their jobs.”