Storm post-mortem: More small power plants in state, tree trimming
Small-scale local power plants, more tree trimming and tougher standards for utilities are among the short-term initiatives Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will pursue following his panel's recommendations on dealing with storm emergencies.
He'll also push for a statewide emergency response drill by Sept. 1 to enhance a broad range of training for state and local officials as well as for utilities. But first the governor has to collect about $650,000 to finance the drill.
Malloy, during a news conference in Simsbury Town Hall, a community hit hard by the August and October storms, said Wednesday he has partially digested recommendations on how the state can best prepare for future storms.
He promoted an initial 18-point combination of legislative requests and orders to state agencies, including a directive to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to develop performance requirements for utilities as well as penalties for poor responses.
It's a distillation of recommendations from a recent consultant's report and the 82-point plan of the governor's Two Storm Panel, he said.
"We need to have standards and we need to hold people accountable for those standards with the expectation that they will actually meet those standards," Malloy said, standing with First Selectman Mary Glassman in a crowded second-floor meeting room.
"I hope, along with a lot of folks, that we never have a year like we just had," Malloy said. "Preparedness was something that we now know we simply did not pay enough attention to over probably the decade leading up to the past year's weather conditions. They were two 100-year storms within the space of weeks."
Localized power plants, so-called micro-grid generators for hospitals and downtown areas, could be fired up in emergencies to keep vital services and businesses open when downed trees cut off power elsewhere, he said.
In recent years, the General Assembly has approved the expansion of micro-grids, but Malloy wants to encourage small power plants placed strategically on a trial basis, as well as co-generation programs in cities.
Malloy proposed adding $1 million to the state Department of Transportation's current $550,000 tree-trimming budget and creating enforcement regulations that could fine utilities, including TV and Internet, millions of dollars for failing to restore service within a reasonable period.
The governor recalled that officials from Connecticut Light & Power told the Two Storm Panel that for $2.5 billion, a 40 percent "hardening" of its power lines could be realized.
Malloy said he would order that PURA open a case aimed at putting some power lines underground, but progress would be made over a number of years.
Simsbury and the Farmington Valley were particularly hard hit by the October snowstorm.
"The setting of standards quite clearly needs to be a cooperative venture between an appropriate state agency and the utilities themselves, and probably needs to be authorized by legislation as well," Malloy said.
The governor said that he will be talking with utilities to potentially underwrite at least part of the $650,000 cost to conduct the statewide emergency test.