Blumenthal calls for blocks on layoffs at two utility companies

Nick Rees Jan. 25, 2010, 2:03pm


HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - In formal written comments, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has urged the state Department of Public Utility Control to reverse its draft decision and block layoffs at two utility companies.

The layoffs at Connecticut Natural Gas and Southern Connecticut Gas Corporation, Blumenthal's written comments say, would potentially threaten service reliability and safety. It's an argument he also used when fighting layoffs at AT&T.

"This DPUC draft decision could literally be dead wrong - diminishing gas company workforce and endangering service reliability and safety," Blumenthal said.

"The DPUC should use its full authority to revise and rescind this preliminary decision, rather than gamble on safety and service this winter."

The DPUC refused to block the layoffs in a preliminary hearing, planning instead to require that monthly operations filings be submitted by the companies to allow the DPUC to monitor public service and safety.

Blumenthal commended the DPUC's intent to scrutinize the companies but noted that it must use its full authority to require that safe staffing levels are maintained at the companies.

CNG, Blumenthal said, plainly acknowledged in its request for a rate increase two months before the announcement of the layoffs, that further workforce reductions would compromise its quality of service and public safety.

"Reducing hours, imposing furloughs, cutting wages would at this point have an adverse impact on the company's quality of service and responsiveness and potentially the reliability of the system, and that's what the company is worried about," representatives of CNG said.

Blumenthal, in calling for the DPUC to side with safety and reject the layoffs, said that either CNG was presenting honest testimony in support of their need to raise rates or that its presented honest testimony supporting workforce reductions.

"More than the financial devastation posed to gas company employees and their families is the danger of catastrophe from understaffed companies responding to gas leak emergencies," Blumenthal said.

"Gas company employees - technicians, dispatchers or others - are the first responders to gas leaks and other emergencies that pose significant public safety threats. A stable and sound workforce is imperative at CNG and Southern - and cannot be diminished, according to the companies' own statements."

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