The Easton Community Gazette
The Easton Community Gazette
Monday, October 26, 2020 • HomeArts DiningNews AdvertiseSubscribe

Election 2020
Candidates Discuss TS Isaias Response, Outage Prevention and Utility Rates


We asked candidates for state office to provide their thoughts on the issues of storm preparation, response and utility rate increases.

135th Connecticut Assembly District Candidates, Easton, Redding & Weston

Anne Hughes - D

That thousands of CT. residents were again left without power after yesterday’s thunderstorms underscores the need for us to act decisively to better protect Connecticut utility customers from deficient planning and underinvestment in our grid, at Eversource and United Illuminating, power companies that clearly need more oversight to help ensure adequate storm preparedness. As we deal with the pandemic recession and face the most worrying hurricane forecast on record, we need better assurances that consumers and businesses will have the power they need--and quite frankly deserve since we pay among the highest electricity rates in the country.

Yesterday’s hearing with Eversource and United Illuminating corporate executives was underwhelming. Incredibly, they seemed to identify trees as the major culprit responsible for the widespread outages that have plagued this state for years. While trees may be a factor, I didn’t hear them put forth or commit to a comprehensive strategy designed to decrease outages or to adequately explain surprise rate hikes. This is why we’ve drafted the Take Back Our Grid Act, legislation that calls for legal liability for electric distribution companies, strengthening PURA, and providing for consumer compensation during outages. It would also require minimum in-state staffing and mandate the burying of power lines, especially in highly vulnerable areas.

Transparency on rates is absolutely essential for consumer protection and economic growth in Connecticut. We pay the highest electricity rates among all 48 continental states, according to the US Energy Information Administration. For too long, our legislative approach to mitigating consumer energy bills has focused on promoting energy efficiency and conservation, rather than directly addressing electricity rates. With the Take Back the Grid Act, we propose a rate freeze, as well as stakeholder involvement in future rate increases. According to the USEIA, one of the primary causes of our high rates is the structure of the industry, where the vast majority of power is supplied by non-utility generators.

We need to view power companies as providers of essential public services and move toward an accountable, transparent public utility model so Connecticut households and businesses are charged fair rates for essential services. Otherwise, our economic growth will be constrained by profit-driven corporations who can raise rates with shareholder dividends as their top priority, rather than the welfare of Connecticut ratepayers and business owners. We have the right to expect adequate investment in measures that can make the grid more resilient and deliver reliable power to Connecticut customers. It's not just hurricane season. It's also "accountability season" in Connecticut.

Anne Hughes is the current State Representative for the 135th Assembly District. You can learn more at: https://www.annehughesproactivect.org/

John Shaban - R

We deregulated our power industry as a nation 25 years ago to separate generators from transmission companies and thus allow for competition across both services and new markets. While we have seen some success privately and publicly with this structure, the distribution networks in Connecticut have regrettably become centralized into a handful of distribution utilities " Eversource being the largest.

The outages and failures that we saw recently were due largely to a lack of leadership by state and local government to call Eversource and UI to task before the storm. Indeed, we addressed these issues 10 years ago legislatively and, until recently it seems, where able to manage outages and storms before they hit. Sadly, while we still have mechanisms in place, our current batch of leaders has seemingly become complacent and simply hoped that Eversource and UI would carry the load -- a grievous lapse in leadership and judgment.

With that, rates cannot go up in this environment. Our citizens, legislators and regulators can and must demand that transmission companies do a better job managing repair and response times, and link any proposed rate increases to that metric. We can and should create built-in penalties and/or rate freezes for repeated failures.

Eversource must also create a more regional and responsive structure that can leverage their size while responding locally, swiftly and with rapid communication. Absent some renewed focus on these issues, we will again hear calls for breakups and/or complete government control of the grid, both of which are inferior choices.

John. Shaban was the three term state rep from 2011 to 2017 and didn’t run for a fourth term in 2018 to instead run for the U.S. Congress. You can learn more at:http://www.shabanforstaterep.com/home


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