Lamont Wants Eversource To Reimburse Customers For Food That Went Bad During Outages

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — In Connecticut, it has been a long eight days since Tropical Storm Isaias. Thousands spent a week without power.

That number was down to fewer than 2,000 as of Wednesday morning, when Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont joined Steve Scott on WCBS 880 to discuss the response to the power outages.

Why did it take so long? What did Eversource and United Illuminating do wrong in their response to Isaias?

Well, two things — mainly Eversource, UI got it about right. But Eversource, which is 80% of our customers, A: It was a much more wicked storm than they had anticipated. These tornado-like winds would just rip up all the old trees or snap them like matchsticks. And secondly, they did not have enough people pre-positioned, ready to go. So it took them two or three days to really ramp up. Today they're claiming 99-plus percent of people are back in power. But it was an agonizing week.

In New York, Governor Cuomo has threatened to rescind Con Edison's franchise deal. Would you go that far with Eversource?

We certainly opened up an investigative docket and I've taken a whole look at this whole rate of return regulation, which is you get 9% when you do a good job or bad job, here's your 9%. That's about to change.

What do you have planned?

I have planned a performance-based regulation. Performance base rate of return. So, how fast you're able to respond to a storm? How stable is your infrastructure? Those will be key criteria to determine your rate of return.

There have been calls for Eversource Boss Jim Judge to lose his job. Do you support that? Would it help anything?

Let's take a look. But I got to tell you, there have been four CEOs since the last storm, when everybody was up in arms. So maybe the problem is not necessarily the CEO, maybe it's the way we regulate, the incentives are just badly aligned.

Some people have told us that their electric bills actually arrived while their power was out. Should there be partial refunds? Maybe reimbursements for food that went bad?

Absolutely. There should be. And if Eversource listen to this, do something proactive. Don't make us make you do this. Get out there and tell the customers you understand their pain.

Are you prepared to put the hammer down and and tell them to reimburse or refund if they don't do it voluntarily?

I'll do whatever I legally can.

You know, Governor, there will be more storms. What do Connecticut's power companies need to do better next time?

Well take a look at how you harden the entire system. What parts of the trunk system should be buried underground so they never go out in a storm? Where can we have more remote status monitoring, so I don't have to have somebody driving out to Eastern Easton to see whether that wire is hot? It's very manually intensive. They need to get their system into the 21st century.

Governor, while we have you, Joe Biden's selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate. You endorsed Joe Biden last year. What do you think of his selection of Senator Harris?

I think it's a really good team, but first and foremost, Joe needed somebody who we knew could be president of the United States in a heartbeat, and there's no question, you know, Kamala ran the second biggest justice department in the country, second only the national one. She's been a senator for four years. She has been tried and true with the campaign trail and to get along. And that's really important. So I think it's a good team for change.

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