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Emergency response bill gives PURA more control

Emergency storm response is the subject of a bill that was recently approved by the state legislature, a bill that allows the state to move quickly in the case of major power outages.

The bill is a direct result of the major power outages experienced by state residents following Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011 and Storm Alfred, the October 201l nor’easter.

The bill allows the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to establish minimum standards of performance for utilities.

In a press release issued Monday, Weston’s state Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) provided a synopsis of what the bill requires of state regulators:

• Establish new performance standards for electric, gas and telecommunications utilities regarding emergency preparation and service restoration

• If there’s an emergency with more than 10% of any utility’s customers without service for more than 48 consecutive hours, the utility can suffer penalties. (Those penalties cannot exceed a total of 2.5% of the company’s annual distribution revenue.)

• Regulators must consider standards for minimum staffing and equipment levels for each utility based on the number of customers; targets for recovery and restoration of service; a communication plan between each utility and its customers; and assessments of each utility’s ability to rely on mutual aid from other utilities in the region to restore the services.

• Other standards relate to utilities’ plans for tree-trimming, cutting and removal to reduce outages caused by falling trees and limbs; how a utility’s call center is operated; notifications by each utility to state and local officials to coordinate response efforts; and safety standards for a utility’s employees, mutual aid crews and private contractors.

PURA has until Nov. 1 to submit a report identifying the new standards.

The bill now heads to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who initiated the bill, for his signature.

 

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