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Eversource agreed to pay for its poor Isaias storm response. But the top Connecticut regulator is still not happy

Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay

Eversource will pay a $103 million settlement to the state of Connecticut and provide credits to customers. That settlement follows a lengthy regulatory review of their performance following Tropical Storm Isaias in the summer of 2020.

But the state’s head regulator believes the utility company got off too easy.

Marissa Gillett, chair of the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), voted against approving the settlement, saying Eversource should face more penalties.

“I commend and applaud a lot of the objectives that were embodied in the settlement,” she said during the vote this week. “However, I am not able to get there at this time so I will not be able to support the settlement today.”

In her written dissent, she said, “Despite the best intentions of the parties, in my opinion, the settlement falls short of its laudable objectives of enhancing local control, providing long-term ratepayer relief and accountability.”

As part of the settlement, Eversource will provide a credit on customers’ upcoming December and January bills. The average ratepayer would receive a $35 bill credit. Gillett said the discount does not go far enough. With supply chain issues and a rise in natural gas prices on the horizon, she said she thinks winter heating bills may still be higher even with the credit.

The settlement requires Eversource to name a Connecticut-based president to lead local operations. Gillett warned more could be done to hold the power company accountable. During mass outages due to bad weather, the local president, who is responsible for the restoration, still reports to the company’s regional president.

Gillett was the only dissenting vote in approving the settlement. PURA Commissioner Michael Caron, who voted “yes,” said Eversource has started making the necessary improvements.

“Eversource has begun to change and address the way they prepare for storms and is definitely going in the right direction,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us all to move forward together.”

Governor Ned Lamont also supported PURA’s approval of the agreement.

“I applaud PURA for approving this settlement, which puts money back into ratepayers’ pockets and provides new and necessary accountability for Eversource,” he said. “This progress happened as a result of a significant storm that impacted hundreds of thousands of residents, and then this settlement was reached after more than a year of a thorough process.”

John is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.