Conn. AG wants administrator to oversee utility pole network

Bryan Cohen Dec. 8, 2011, 1:33am


HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson urged state utility regulators on Wednesday to appoint an independent administrator to manage and oversee authority of the state's utility pole network.

Jepsen and Swanson made the recommendation in a letter filed Tuesday with the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. They asked PURA to consider the appointment as part of a look into responses by Connecticut public service companies to the Oct. 29 snow storm and Tropical Storm Irene.

"We believe that a thorough examination of all the circumstances underlying the widespread damage to the state's utility infrastructure will reveal that the compromised integrity of the utility poles from neglect and mismanagement contributed to the devastation caused by these two storms, as weakened or rotted utility poles are much more likely to be damaged during extreme weather conditions," Jepsen and Swanson said.

During the two storms, more than 3,000 utility poles fell or were damaged.

"Unfortunately, many of these utility poles are jointly owned, creating confusion and uncertainty by affected municipalities and other parties as to the entity responsible for repair or replacement of damaged utility poles and their attendant attachments," Jepsen and Swanson said.

According to the letter, an administrator would serve the public interest, providing greater security for Connecticut's power and telecommunications services while promoting economic opportunity through the enforcement of standards for replacement and maintenance of utility poles. In addition, an administrator could take responsibility for sharing information on utility poles in preparation for, during and following major storms, along with coordinating restoration resources and managing completion of temporary repairs. Such a position could also administer an orderly process for pole attachments and reattachments, providing timely and fair access.

"The regulatory and statutory history in Connecticut has already shown us that the current system of pole administration is dysfunctional and has contributed to many prior delays in establishment, repair and restoration of utility and communication service," Jepsen and Swanson said. "Given that history and recent events, it is evident that a more responsive management system for the public rights of way is urgently needed."

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