OUR POWER OUTAGE BLOG BEGAN DURING THE HALLOWEEN 2011 EVENT:  It continues through Storm Sandy and is presently in 2013...and perhaps going to kick in in 2015 (we hope not)


Rate hikes coming?  You betcha
Nov. 2, 2014 outage story...
JUST RECEIVED:  Notice from CL&P re:  tree-trimming on State and Town roads within 8 feet of power lines.
How about deciding
who pays for better service and safer energy supply in 2013 - CT "regulators" under the control of DEEP to decide?
What's up in 2013?  Tree trimming?
Other top stories during the 2011 Halloween storm, Irene  and after.  In 2012,  other news or "top stories".
OTHER - Free Speech Case
RESEARCH ON THIS WEBSITE:  other subpages devoted to power issue...INDEX:.http://www.aboutweston.com/ENERGY.html
Elsewhere (aftermath including insurance q&a, death toll) since Climate Change is now something that is real to lots more folks...


Snow was less than expected
But wwwwwinds and bbbbitter cccccold are right there, according to the forecast.  Here we are on the CL&P for the list/EVERSOURCE map...outages earlier 74, now fixed. 


Winter 2014-2015:
Here we go again?  January storm advertised as a potential all-snow, high wind type - 18"-24" and maybe even more...
Sunday in Weston, Connecticut - Nov. 2, 2014 and now warnings on Sunday, January 25, 2015!  Schools to dismiss 3 hours early...

Numbers of outages Nov 2 @ 10AM, 11:45AM, 1PM & 5PM Sunday:  Our rural reputation - Fall ain't done 'til the Kousa turns.  Classic New England blizzard coming?
A good case for Emergency Services/Public Safety Complex!  Is the Nov 2 storm moving out and north?  Nope.  More wind coming in by 1pm...and as night falls, you can still hear the wind...
here on Jan 26, 2015 Weston preparing for a possible blizzard - shelter in place-type event...

Connecticut braces for major winter storm
AP Wire
Jan 26, 11:41 AM EST


The storm is shaping up as a test for the state's largest utility, Connecticut Light & Power, which has been heavily criticized by state officials and consumers for delays in restoring power following outages in recent years. CL&P is emailing and phoning customers warning of possible outages during the storm, which has the potential to bring down power lines. The utility has upgraded equipment and cleared tree branches and limbs since destructive storms in 2011. CL&P, a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities, serves 1.2 million customers in 149 municipalities and towns.


Utilities are predicting outages will likely affect more than 100,000 customers, and for those who do lose power, it could be several days before it's restored. Many residents are preparing for the worst. Frank Kurzatkowski, a salesman from Southington, said he has gas cans for his snow blowers and three, five-gallon buckets of water at his home in case the power goes out and his well pump doesn't work. After the storm ends, he plans to help unbury his neighborhood.

Story in full:  http://www.theday.com/article/20141201/NWS01/141209980/1017

PURA INFORMATIONAL HEARING.  CL&P RATE INCREASES ($44 million request 2015).  Lunchtime at PURA  - returns at 1:30pm...
Summary of testimony:  Enhanced tree trimming worked.  Structural hardening circuits - composite materials Torrington and Stamford.  Page ten, 5-year plan costs - 2017 would be the next request for increase. 

Speakers At Public Hearing Oppose CL&P Rate Increase
Hartford Courant
11:16 PM EDT, August 27, 2014

NEW BRITAIN — One after the other people took to the microphone Wednesday night to express their opposition to the rate increase proposed by Connecticut Light & Power.

Challenges to the proposal were nearly universal at the New Britain offices of the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, where all three commissioners sat for more than an hour listening to public comments, the first of three nights they will be doing so in the next six weeks

Nancy Thomas, a Newington resident, said it feels like CL&P is after "every last nickel they can find in our wallets."

One common story echoed throughout the meeting. Residents, many older and on fixed incomes, said they have cut back in recent years to make ends meet. One woman from New Britain said she no longer turns on her outside floodlights, she sits in the dark while watching TV and she uses flashlights around the house. Another said she saves money by turning off her furnace some days during the winter, has cut her landline telephone and no longer uses fans or air conditioning during the summer.

Much of the opposition from the crowded hearing room of about 100 focused on how CL&P is requesting a 60 percent increase in its fixed fee, which is paid by customers every month regardless of how much energy is used.

To many, including Rep. Lonnie Reed, D-Branford, such a change sends mixed signals, especially in a state that has done so much to promote energy efficiency and renewable power.

Desiree Bartholomew, a West Hartford resident, made note of how utilities are generally able to raise rates to cover any costs that they have incurred.

"The company is within its rights to raise prices," she said. "But the increases our untenable."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who held a press conference on the rate increase on Tuesday, said: "The reason for the outpouring of opposition is this state can't afford it."

Yolanta Zaba of New Britain put it this way: "With the highest rate in the United States, they still have the balls to ask for another increase."

A number of linemen who work for CL&P testified that the changes they have seen at the utility over the past two years have not been good. Layoffs, work moves and changes to how late-night problems are responded to give them pause, they said, and should be considered in the rate case.

At least two people spoke in favor of one aspect of the utility's proposed rate increase. That piece is the $25 million that will pay for programs such as tree trimming and replacing lines that should make the electric grid better able to handle major storms with fewer outages.

Thomas Sheridan, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, said: "If we are going to ask the company to step up to the plate and make these upgrades, we are to be fair and reasonable."

He was joined by Denise McNair, the town manager of Berlin, who supported the company's investment in tree trimming, calling it "monies well spent."

Copyright © 2014, The Hartford Courant

Why So Much Money? And 7 Other Questions About The CL&P Rate Case
Hartford Courant
7:27 PM EDT, August 27, 2014

The application that Connecticut Light & Power made months ago to raise rates has moved forward in the complex and often heated process that occurs when public, regulated utilities request more money from their ratepayers. Letters are being written, politicians have taken stances and on Wednesday hearings began that will allow the public an opportunity to chime in.

The most minute of facts surrounding the rate case will be offered and cross-examined by lawyers for CL&P and consumer advocates such as the Office of Consumer Counsel and the state attorney general.

Here's a review of what's at stake.

Why does CL&P say it needs so much money?

CL&P is asking for a total increase of $231.5 million. The money would cover $116.7 million in added distribution costs for poles, wires and other equipment and expenses; $89.5 million to pay for damage done by five major storms; and $25.3 million for operations including tree trimming and wire replacements that are specially designed to make the distribution system perform better in storms.

The amounts for the storms and system resiliency — about $115 million — have already been approved in previous regulatory cases and are being put into effect with this rate case.

The profit margin requested — 10.2 percent, an increase from 9.4 percent — accounts for about $23 million of the increase, and it has been criticized by the likes of Wal-Mart, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, among others.

CL&P says the increase addresses a gap between expenses and income. A company spokesman said: "This gap is primarily due to the substantial amount of capital investments devoted to our electric distribution system replacing poles, transformers, wires and other equipment to significantly improve the reliability of the system. Thanks to these investments, last year CL&P had its best reliability year in over a decade."

What would the proposed increase look like on my electric bill?

The first thing to understand is that this proposed increase affects just half of your bill, the distribution side, not the generation side.

CL&P customers now pay $16 a month plus 2.757 cents per kilowatt hour used. The proposed increase would be a $25.50 customer charge and 3.183 cents per kilowatt hour used.

Here's what that could do to your bill. If you don't use a lot of power, you might be in the 200 kilowatt hour range per month. The distribution charges you pay in a month would go from $21.41 to $31.87, a 48.1 percent increase. An average residential customer at 700 kilowatt hours would see a change in charges from $35.30 to $44.78, a 35.4 percent increase. And a high-use customer, at 2,000 kilowatt hours, would see the bill jump from $71.14 to $89.16, a 25.3 percent increase.

Will the company get it all?

The result of rate cases usually involves the utility getting most of its request. Consumer advocates persuade regulators to shave away costs here and there that weren't incurred properly or, as the law says, might be more than sufficient for financial integrity.

In filings and at the opening of the formal rate case Wednesday, Attorney General George Jepsen's office reminded regulators of their determination — regarding CL&P's response to the two 2011 storms — that the company's actions were "deficient and inadequate … as to warrant regulatory sanction."

The state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority continued: "In considering appropriate reduction to allowed returns on equity in forthcoming rate-making proceedings and in exercising its jurisdictional approval for recovery of appropriate 2011 storm costs, the Authority will consider and weigh the extent to which CL&P has recognized its shortcomings and taken concrete and measurable steps to embrace the need for aggressive, extensive restructuring of both its attitude toward storm management and establishment of new practices for execution of future storm response."

Translation: PURA said that it might cut CL&P's profit margin in its next rate case but, when that time comes, will weigh how the company has improved and changed its operations.

Separately, the Office of Consumer Counsel has filed testimony in the case arguing that CL&P's request should be cut by $109.2 million.

What are the main arguments against the increase and who is making them?

The Office of the Consumer Counsel argues that CL&P just hasn't put forward enough justification for the costs it has presented.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy argues that the increased profit margin is unwarranted because rates everywhere else, in the utility industry and the financial world as a whole, are lower. This view is shared in U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal's critique.

Both they and others have focused on the company proposal to raise the charge that is paid by residential customers. CL&P wants it to be $25.50 instead of $16 The company has argued that its study of costs and services concluded that the fixed fee should be in the $35 range.

Why is the company asking for a higher fixed rate?

CL&P's philosophy on rates is moving toward getting more of its revenue from fixed fees rather than per-kilowatt-hour sales.

Charles Goodwin, CL&P's head of rate making, said this in testimony: "CL&P's proposal addresses the historical disconnect between the Company's incurrence of costs to plan, construct and operate the distribution system, which generally do not vary based on the volume of electricity sold, and the collection of billed revenues, which vary almost directly on the basis of volumes of electricity sold."

Its internal study on rates showed that the monthly customer fee should be $35, instead of the $25.50 it is proposing.

Could the company choose to not raise the fixed charge and instead raise the kilowatt-hour rate?

Yes. The company could do any number of things with its rates.

What would that look like?

Environment Northeast, an energy watchdog group, asked CL&P to calculate out its $231 million increase based on a few different customer charges. CL&P has proposed a charge of $25.50 and a rate of 3.183 cents per kilowatt hour.

CL&P said that keeping the customer charge the same — at $16 — would result in a distribution rate of 4.509 cents a kilowatt hour.

Lowering the charge to $11.50, a mark proposed by many officials, would result in a rate of 5.137 cents per kilowatt hour. Down further to just $5 would result in a rate of 6.044 cents per kilowatt hour.

If any costs are cut from the company's request, these rates or charges could be decreased further.

When will any changes be decided and go into effect?

The draft decision in the case is scheduled to be released Dec. 1. The final decision is scheduled for Dec. 17.

CL&P said initially that it expected the rate increase to be effective Dec. 1, but rates cannot change until the final decision has been signed by PURA's commissioners and CL&P has had time to change its billing systems to reflect the changes.

Copyright © 2014, The Hartford Courant

Conn. AG ends probe of utility's storm response
Mar 19, 2014 3:27 PM EDT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen has closed his investigation into how the state's largest utility responded to a freak October snow storm in 2011 that knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of customers for days.

He announced Wednesday that Northeast Utilities, parent company of Connecticut Light & Power, agreed to donate $2.5 million to Operation Fuel, which provides heating assistance and financial help for energy-saving initiatives.

Jepsen said he is agreeing to disagree with CL&P on whether its conduct was appropriate. He asked state regulators last year to impose additional penalties against CL&P in its request for storm recovery costs.

CL&P said it's pleased with the agreement that ends the matter while also donating to a worthy cause.

Jepsen accused the utility of impeding regulators' investigation by failing to disclose all relevant information.

State denies Sandy aid to coastal homes

Neil Vigdor, Greenwich TIME
Updated 12:02 am, Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Still struggling to get back on their feet more than a year after Superstorm Sandy, which displaced many shoreline residents of Connecticut, none of them will receive funds to move their homes to higher ground under the latest round of emergency aid.

The state sent out rejection letters Monday to 94 applicants from Greenwich to East Haven, who requested a total of $18 million to elevate their homes through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

The amount of funds available to the state for hazard mitigation is $16.6 million, however.

The state says the money would be better spent hardening infrastructure such as seawalls, bridges, levees and wastewater treatment plants, a decision that has baffled the leaders of a number of shoreline towns and owners of the most vulnerable homes...story in full here.

Having a generator perhaps might have saved 26 lives - a reason we hadn't heard before...

Conn. files: Gunman's mother loving but bewildered
Dec 28, 2:14 AM EST

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- Thousands of pages of documents from the Newtown shooting investigation help fill out the picture of the gunman's mother as a dedicated and loving, if bewildered, parent who acknowledged her son appeared to be spiraling downward but was not aware to what extent.

Nancy Lanza told a lifelong friend about two weeks before the massacre that her 20-year-old son, who lived with her, was becoming increasingly despondent. Adam Lanza hadn't left his room in three months and was communicating with her only via email. When Hurricane Sandy blew through Connecticut in late October and cut power to the Lanza home, the documents say, it "put Adam over the edge." She couldn't persuade him to stay at a hotel or in an RV.

When Nancy Lanza asked her son whether he would feel bad if something happened to her, he replied no, she told her friend, who was not identified in the documents. Still, "Nancy never expressed any concern about fearing for her safety while alone with Adam," the report said.

About two weeks later, Adam fatally shot his mother in the head while she was in bed, gunned down 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in one of the worst mass shootings in the nation's history, and killed himself with a handgun as police closed in.

Connecticut police released the documents Friday from their investigation into the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre, providing the most detailed and disturbing picture yet of Nancy Lanza's relationship with her son; his fascination with violence; and school employees' brave and clear-headed attempts to protect the children.

"In the midst of the darkness of that day, we also saw remarkable heroism and glimpses of grace," wrote Reuben F. Bradford, commissioner of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, in a letter accompanying the files.

The documents supplemented a previously released summary based on the same findings, and their release marked the end of the more than yearlong investigation. Authorities have said a motive may never be known, and though the paperwork, photos and videos aren't conclusive and many are heavily redacted to protect the names of children and withhold some of the more grisly details, they nevertheless overflow with painful and visceral details.

Among them: Responders found more than a dozen bodies, mostly children, packed "like sardines" in a bathroom. And the horrors inside the school were so terrible that when police sent in paramedics, they tried to select ones capable of handling what they were about to witness.

"This will be the worst day of your life," police Sgt. William Cario warned one.

Teachers heard janitor Rick Thorne try to get Lanza to leave the school. One teacher, who was hiding in a closet in the math lab, heard Thorne yell, "Put the gun down!" An aide said she heard gunfire and Thorne told her to close her door. Thorne survived.

Teacher Kaitlin Roig told police she heard "rapid-fire shooting" outside the school, near her classroom. She rushed her students into the classroom's bathroom, pulled a rolling storage unit in front of the bathroom door as a barricade, and then closed and locked the door.

She heard a voice say, "Oh, please, no. Please, no." Eventually, police officers slid their badges under the bathroom door. Roig refused to come out and told them that if they were truly police, they should be able to get the key to the door - which they did.

Police Lt. Christopher Vanghele said he and another officer found what appeared to be about 15 bodies, mostly children, packed in a bathroom. So many people had tried to cram inside the bathroom that the door couldn't be closed, and Lanza gunned them all down, Vanghele surmised.

Vanghele also recalled another officer carrying a little girl in his arms and running for the exit. Vanghele ran with him through the parking lot as the officer repeated, "Come on, sweetie; come on, sweetie." The girl didn't survive.

Investigators were gentle in their questioning of children, interviewing youngsters only if they or their parents requested it. Some of the parents thought that talking openly about the shooting and getting accurate information out would help their children heal.

After the interviews, the children were given a copy of the children's book "A Terrible Thing Happened" to help them cope.

Bradford, the emergency commissioner, wrote that much of the report was disturbing but that it also showed teachers trying to protect the children, law enforcement officials putting themselves in harm's way, and dispatchers working calmly and efficiently.

Lanza remained silent as he aimed and fired in one of the classrooms, according to an officer who interviewed the mother of a surviving student. The woman said her son, who ran from the classroom, recalled the shooter kicking in the door and then firing.

A friend told police that Nancy Lanza reported her son had bumped his head "really bad" a few days before the shootings, drawing blood, according to the documents. And an ex-boyfriend told police Nancy Lanza had canceled a trip to London the week of the shooting because of "a couple last-minute problems on the home front."

A day before the killings, Nancy Lanza had lunch with an acquaintance in New Hampshire who told police she described the trip there as an experiment to allow her son to stay home alone for a few days at their home in Connecticut. She had no intention of remarrying because she accepted the obligations of caring for her son, the acquaintance told investigators.

Adam Lanza was diagnosed in 2006 with "profound Autism Spectrum Disorder, with rigidity, isolation, and a lack of comprehension of ordinary social interaction and communications," while also displaying symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, according to Dr. Robert A. King, a professor at the Yale School of Medicine Child Study Center.

"My concern was that the shooter's social isolation and withdrawal was increasing," King is quoted as telling the investigators.

But he also told investigators that he observed nothing in Lanza's behavior that predicted he would become a mass killer. Contacted by The Associated Press, King did not comment.

Kathleen A. Koenig, an advanced practice registered nurse at the Yale Child Study Center, told investigators that Nancy Lanza said her son had several ritualistic behaviors, including frequently washing his hands and changing his socks 20 times a day, to the point his mother did three loads of laundry a day.

The nurse, who met with Lanza in 2006 and 2007, said Lanza's mother declined to give him prescribed antidepressant and antianxiety medication after she reported he had trouble raising his arm, something she attributed to the drug. Koenig unsuccessfully tried to convince Nancy Lanza that the medicine was not responsible, and the mother failed to schedule a follow-up visit after her son missed an appointment, police said.

Peter Lanza, who was estranged from his son, told police that his son had Asperger's syndrome - a type of autism that is not associated with violence.

Included in the documents were photos of the home Lanza shared with his mother. They show rounds of ammunition, gun magazines, shot-up paper targets, gun cases, earplugs and a gun safe with a rifle in it.

A former teacher of Lanza's was quoted as telling investigators that he exhibited antisocial behavior, rarely interacted with other students and obsessed in writings "about battles, destruction and war."

"In all my years of experience, I have known (redacted) grade boys to talk about things like this, but Adam's level of violence was disturbing," the teacher told investigators. The teacher added: "Adam's creative writing was so graphic that it could not be shared."

Nancy Lanza couldn't put up a Christmas tree because her son disliked the holiday, according to the lifelong friend who spoke to her two weeks before her death.

In a subsequent interview, the friend described Nancy Lanza as a gun advocate who said she kept a handgun in her bedroom nightstand because it made her feel safe. The friend also reiterated that Nancy Lanza hadn't mentioned ever feeling threatened by her son.

Prosecutors previously issued a summary of the investigation last month that portrayed Lanza as obsessed with mass murders. The documents released Friday also indicated Lanza was interested in mass killings, played violent video games and had books that dealt with death.

But the report concluded Lanza's motives for the Newtown massacre might never be known. It has been well documented that Nancy Lanza owned firearms and that she and her son would visit shooting ranges.

Lanza "was undoubtedly afflicted with mental health problems; yet despite a fascination with mass shootings and firearms, he displayed no aggressive or threatening tendencies," it said.


Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers David Sharp in Portland, Maine; Jack Gillum in Washington; Nancy Albritton in Philadelphia; Michael Biesecker in Raleigh, N.C.; Frank Eltman in Mineola, N.Y.; David Eggert in Lansing, Mich.; Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio; Michelle L. Johnson and Dinesh Ramde in Milwaukee; David Klepper in Providence, R.I.; Amanda Lee Myers in Cincinnati; Bob Salsberg in Boston; Rik Stevens in Concord, N.H.,; Terry Tang in Phoenix; Laura Wides in Miami and Katie Zezima in Newark, N.J.

© 2013 The Associated Press.

Remember this?

ATTENTION:  New CL&P map will not show Weston map in black when it is 100% out of power any more...
You will have to look for the number of households out on a different link - this new CL&P map shows the picture for the intensity of outages, making it easier for Town of Weston officials to explain to the people why Weston's needs are less important than other, large communities'.   Example:  Hurricane Sandy, Oct. 29th, right.  Weston was actually the worst outage by percent in the State - we will only know this by doing the math, or hopefully, finding the right table, on the CL&P website.  The message:  Nobody care what grade you get, they only want to bring the most people back up the soonest.  Ergo, get a generator or make other plans, Westonites.

A year later, examples in Connecticut of waiting for FEMA and national flood insurance?

Reinsurer Tracks Natural Disasters, Tallies Devastating Effects
Storm Sandy Hit Connecticut One Year Ago Tuesday
The Hartford Courant
4:54 PM EDT, October 28, 2013

It didn't take storm Sandy one year ago to interest Munich Re, parent company of Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co., in climate and meteorological research...full story here.

New FEMA regulations result (top).  One of my favorite Mountain Laurel trees died after 2011 Halloween outage.

CL&P now going after tree trimming - story from New London DAY here...

Most Of Federal Grant For Storm Sandy Cleanup Has Not Been Used
The Hartford Courant
11:06 PM EDT, October 10, 2013

The federal government sent Connecticut enough money to hire 120 unemployed people for 20 weeks to work on storm Sandy cleanup and repairs, but 11 months later, only 24 people have been hired. The first worker didn't come on until July.

And the deadline for using the money — $610,207 in all — is less than three weeks away.

More than 900 people asked the state about the temporary jobs when the opportunity was first announced in December. The state Department of Labor said then that the jobs would pay $15.50 an hour on average. Applicants had to be people who either had never qualified for unemployment benefits or had exhausted them.

When The Courant reported in April that not one person had been hired five months after the grant was awarded, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that the state would apply for a waiver to hire people to clean up its own parks, because towns, which were supposed to be the beneficiaries, had not requested any temporary workers for their public lands or to repair the storm-damaged houses of low-income residents.

"I'm not being critical of anyone, cities have got their own job to do, I understand that, but I'm not going to let that money fly around much longer," Malloy said in April. The state received permission from the federal government to hire the temps itself.

But even with the state stepping in, it took an additional two months to get anyone on the payroll. The temps have done a total of 9,285 work hours, and have been paid $126,429 in wages. The grant covers more than just wages — for instance, one crew that works in East Lyme gets a free van ride from Danielson or Norwich.  The crew is working at Rocky Neck State Park, replacing most of a boardwalk that washed away when Sandy struck Oct. 29, 2012.

"It was a process," said Kim Andy, a program manager in the state Department of Labor's Office of Workforce Competitiveness. She started working on this grant in April. First, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection had to find projects that could be done. Then the state asked the regional workforce investment boards, nonprofit agencies, to recruit and interview candidates. One of those boards subcontracted to EASTCONN, a regional educational services provider.

"When there's multiple agencies, that requires some effort," Andy said. "It was multiple layers but a lot of cross collaboration, which I would say in this case, has gone very well."

The state could have received an additional $1.2 million if it had demonstrated a need. Instead, it is asking for an extension through June 2014 to spend the money that it has been sent, because DEEP has identified another project — at the state's Air Line Trail — that could be done, but no one has been put to work there yet.  In yet another bureaucratic hurdle, the request for the extension, submitted Sept. 27, has gone unanswered due to the federal shutdown.

"We think we're going to get the extension," said Kathy Mirione, executive director of the Office of Workforce Competitiveness. That's because the state had to justify the request before the formal submission, and the federal officials were encouraging.

If an extension is granted, the 10 people who are working at Rocky Neck State Park will continue to work in November, and 14 more unemployed people will be hired to join them. The Rocky Neck boardwalk is nearly finished.  There's also a crew working in Stratford on repairs to the Shakespeare Theatre Grounds, a dock and a boat ramp, and work at two beaches. Stratford is one of just two towns that asked for temps. One person is working in Milford; she started last week.

"The state had been trying to give us a temporary worker in regards to cleanup, but the cleanup is done," said Bill Richards, Milford's recovery coordinator. He told state officials that what they really needed is someone to do paperwork, which is what their one worker is doing now. Low-income residents in the city are starting to apply for federal grants to do repair work or to elevate their houses. Each job will have to be documented.

"Documenting, grant applications, it's very tedious and time-consuming," Richards said. "She's been a godsend as far as being very capable of all sorts of administrative tasks."

"She has over 12 years with Pitney Bowes and was caught in a downsizing and lost her job," Richards said. While she would rather have a full-time job, this worker's 19-hour-a-week position is at least some help, he said. If the grant is extended, she will stay on through the end of the year, and maybe into February.

Harwinton, which had planned to hire temps earlier in the year, had community volunteers step forward when they read in The Courant that the town didn't have the staff to clear trails, First Selectman Michael Criss said.

"It's just heartwarming to see people come forward and do it on their own time," Criss said. He said about nine people came and cleared brush.

The people hired with the federal grant money are grateful for the work.  William Jodoin, 31, of Danielson, had been unemployed for a year and had exhausted his unemployment benefits in October 2012, long before he was hired by the state in July at $11 an hour. His last job, in a warehouse, paid $14.95. Going back to work greatly reduced his stress, he said.

"I'm able to get stuff for my kids that I needed, don't have to worry about bills piling up," Jodoin said. He has a 6-year-old and a 1-year-old.

Danielle Greenblatt, 35, of Danielson, didn't qualify for unemployment because she hasn't worked steadily in 10 years, while she was staying home with her four children. Sometimes she would work in restaurants or retail for a month or two, but when her marriage broke up, she went to the state's career center, and was hired for the Rocky Neck crew. She's making $10.50 an hour, almost $2 an hour more than any job she'd had before.

"I would like to stay in construction," she said. "I don't want to go back to be a cashier after this experience. It's built up my confidence level. I can do a lot more than wait tables."

Greenblatt was in the thick of things at the job site, driving screws into frames that the boardwalk decking will cover, helping to lift the big frames for transport down to the beach.

She said her neighbors told her: "Well, the ladies clean up on our construction crew," and she replied: "Well, we don't."

Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant

Bare Trees Are a Lingering Sign of Hurricane Sandy’s High Toll
August 18, 2013

When spring came, Ike Sinesi of Mill Island, Brooklyn, noticed something strange about the old weeping cedar on his front lawn. For the first time since it was planted, the powdery blue needles had not returned. His neighbors on this outcropping of land, surrounded on three sides by inlets off Jamaica Bay, saw similar signs.

Chunks of dried bark had fallen, lying on the ground like driftwood. Trees that had stood tall and strong for decades leafed into twisted creatures, part green, part scorched. Well into the height of summer, hundreds of branches remained dark and barren.

In storm-damaged neighborhoods throughout the city, where homes have been repaired, furnishings have been replaced and millions have been spent on recovery, another toll of Hurricane Sandy is becoming starkly clear. Trees, plants and shrubs are dying by the thousands.

Since the spring, the city parks department has inspected nearly 48,000 trees in flood zones, including coastal areas like south Queens, south Brooklyn, the Rockaways, Coney Island, Staten Island, and the Lower East Side of Manhattan. More than 6,500 trees have shown signs of stress and abnormal leafing. Roughly 2,000 have been presumed dead. And those numbers do not include trees on private property. The city plans to take the dead trees away by the end of the year and have most of them replaced, said Liam Kavanagh, the first deputy commissioner of the parks department. The total cost is hard to estimate, said Mr. Kavanagh, until contractors’ bids come in.

The extent of the damage was unanticipated, he said. “These are trees that last year for the most part were completely healthy, normal city trees,” said Mr. Kavanagh. “To see so many of them with little or no leaf coverage, and at this time of year, it is surprising.”

On the Lower East Side, ghostly branches arch over the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive. In nearby East River Park, there are dozens of trees, with few or no leaves, some seemingly with only a single strand of garland. One afternoon last week, a toddler played at a sprinkler, a woman read on a bench, and joggers trudged by under trees that evoked winter.

In Howard Beach, trees in full bloom stand next to lifeless ones. “It does leave a mark,” said Roger Gendron, president of the Hamilton Beach civic association. “You go down certain streets, every other tree looks half dead or dead.”

Residents in Mill Island, now a sick ward of weeping cherries, withered maples, washed-out shrubs and ailing plants, are worried about the costs to replace the trees they own, some or all of which are not covered by insurance. There is also the loss of the leafy canopies that cooled the streets, and the increased threat of falling limbs. “You had the green branches and the trees just covered the street,” said Sol Needle, president of the Mill Island Civic Association. “And who knows if they’re coming back?”

Mr. Sinesi, a 52-year-old dentist who works out of his home office on East 66th Street, has so far thrown away about a dozen bronze-colored shrubs.

The replacement plantings have already died. He has kept the evergreen that he and his father planted years ago. And he holds out hope for two towering trees in his backyard that have sprouted a few wayward leaves. “In theory, some of it is still alive,” Mr. Sinesi said. “The question is how much is still alive, and next year whether they will come back worse or better.”

For now, he said of the grim landscape, “it’s a constant reminder that we’ve still not recovered from the storm.”

Saltwater is thought to be the culprit. Salt can damage plants, said Bill Logan, a Brooklyn-based arborist, by drying out the root systems.

Why some plants survived and others did not remains a mystery. Mr. Logan says it depends on the species, and how much stress a plant was under before the storm. Where privately owned plants may be coddled, “a street tree has to fend for itself, and they’re very resilient,” he said. “Until something like this happens.”

It is hard to say which of the ailing plants and trees might recover. “We’re in the position that perhaps medical doctors were in the Civil War, we don’t have a lot of things we can do,” Mr. Logan said. “It depends how much resilience is left in them.”

The city will monitor thousands of trees through next year, giving them more time to heal before they make a decision on their condition.

“God bless, but what’s the tree population?” asked Mr. Needle, referring to the city’s plan.

Trees that are outside the flood zones, like those in parts of Mill Basin, the neighborhood adjoining Mill Island, have not been inspected. Mr. Kavanagh said that anyone with a concern about a tree should call the city information line, 311.

Sissy Lief, who had four feet of water pour into part of her home, spent about $45,000 to rebuild, she said, much of which she had to borrow from her brother.

Ms. Lief, whose husband of 43 years died last year, recently got an estimate to remove the dead shrubs and trees from her lawn. Fifteen hundred dollars. “I can’t do that,” she said, standing in her doorway overlooking the patchy lawn landscape with its carriage-shaped flower box. “The way it has been for the last year, I can’t cry no more.”

Storm surge -- the hurricane season's least understood threat
CT MIRRORBy Jan Ellen Spiegel
Monday, July 1, 2013

This map by the University of Connecticut Center for Land Use Education & Research was made using real flooding data from the FEMA Modeling Task Force. It shows how far inland the superstorm's surge went.

This is the first in an ongoing series of stories that will examine environmental and climate issues affecting the Connecticut shoreline.

It was exactly the 2013 hurricane forecast no one wanted to hear: An active to extremely active Atlantic season, according to the National Hurricane Center. Specifically - a 70 percent chance of 13 to 20 named storms including seven to 11 hurricanes, three to six of which could be major.

“I’m hoping they’re just wrong,” said Brian Thompson, director of the Office of Long Island Sound Programs at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “But I’m not going count on that.”

Preparing for the potential while keeping in mind the vulnerabilities exposed during the last two hurricane seasons that brought us Irene and Sandy (not to mention the last two winter storm seasons) is under way here and in other affected states.

But one critical –- and deadly -- issue has proved gnarly for forecasters and planners: storm surge.

“As a nation we don’t understand storm surge well, nor do coastal communities understand storm surge risk,” said Jamie Rhome, a storm surge specialist at the Hurricane Center. “It’s one of the hardest things to communicate.”

The center describes storm surge as “an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tides.” Throw the tides in and certain other conditions and the result can be devastating flooding that travels miles and miles from shore.

“People don’t understand how far inland storm surge can go,” Rhome said. “It penetrates well inland, goes up rivers, into bays. It goes wherever it can, and people don’t realize they are at threat of flooding.”

Data from Superstorm Sandy compiled by the FEMA Modeling Task Force and mapped by UConn’s Center for Land Use Education and Research show storm surge went up the Connecticut River nearly to Middletown; made it up the Housatonic River to Shelton, Derby and Ansonia; overspread places like Fairfield, Bridgeport, Milford and East Haven; and generally thrust into rivers, streams, marshes and other low-lying areas along the entire coast.

But many people still think of storm surge as a wave or a short-lived event and don’t realize that three-quarters of the deaths in hurricanes are caused by drowning, most of which likely are the result of storm surge.

storm surge threat map the National Hurricane Center plans to test this summer to help residents and officials better understand the risk storm surge poses.

“It’s our No. 1 concern. We know that it kills people, and people don’t seem to understand their own vulnerability. We’ve shown that over and over,” said Betty Morrow a sociologist and professor emeritus at Florida International University. She worked with ERG Inc. to do polling and analysis on storm surge for the Hurricane Center.

She said people know storm categories very well. But she pointed out, categories are based on wind. Water is another matter.

“You can’t stand up in a foot of rushing water,” she said. “People thought they would have time to leave if they waited to see how bad it was.

“We see people who are in very low elevations and very vulnerable and say, ‘How concerned are you about storm surge?’ And they say, ‘Oh, not concerned.’”

So the Hurricane Center is trying a new approach. Aside from talking about storm surge with any reporter who asks, it’s rolling out a new warning map for a test run in Florida, assuming the situation arises. Devised with the help of social scientists and communications experts, including those at ERG, it is color-coded green, yellow and red for the surge risk a specific storm poses. The Center plans to release it real-time as a storm heads for land. And it’s designed to be understood by weather experts, media and emergency officials as well as the public.

“We would be using those products and pushing those prods out once they are finalized,” said Scott DeVico, a spokesman for the Connecticut Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.

During storms Sandy and Irene, Rhome was in frequent communication with Connecticut Emergency Management Director William Hackett. But DeVico pointed out that storm surge and other updates are passed on to municipalities and it’s up to them to make the calls on evacuations and other measures.

“We have said at the department and the governor has said over and over again, heed the warnings of your local safety officials. If you’re told to evacuate -– you should evacuate.”

Easier said than done.

It turns out people typically base the assessment of their vulnerability during a storm on how they fared previously. That’s exactly the wrong paradigm, said Rhome and other experts. Because many factors figure into storm surge projections, storms of the same category can have enough different features to make their impacts vary widely. Having survived one storm is no assurance of surviving another.

The National Hurricane Center's anatomy of a storm surge.

The biggest variables are the intensity of the storm itself, its track, its travel speed, its wind speed, the size of its wind field, its angle of approach, the characteristics of the landfall location and timing -– especially in relation to the tide cycle.

For example, a storm hitting Connecticut from the south may have the benefit of having Long Island act as a buffer, something Sandy did not have. Mostly Sandy hit a bit off high tide, which helped. But if a storm hits in a highly developed area, the impact of storm surge is likely to be amplified.

Compounding that are the effects of sea level rise, which mean the base water level is now higher than it used be, so there’s more water available. And the impact of coastal changes, natural ones from long-term erosion and previous storms as well as man-made ones such as additional building and coastal armoring like seawalls, means storms similar to ones in previous years can have different effects -– likely worse ones, experts said.

“This is why forecasting surge is so tricky,” Rhome said. “Everyone wants to talk about how Sandy merged with a winter storm, and sometimes we’re missing the most critical factors: landfall location and the timing of high tides.”

The Hurricane Center also plans to present storm surge in terms of its height, rather than its depth. A seemingly semantic change they hope will make a large difference.

“Usually if person can see ocean from their home, we have a fighting chance that they will understand,” said Rhome of storm surge warnings. “So few people know whether they live in an evacuation zone, yet it is the single most important thing one could know.”

His advice: “Just take five minutes to see if you’re in an evacuation zone.”

Bloomberg Seeks to Redo Building Code in Sandy’s Wake
June 13, 2013

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Thursday proposed a raft of major changes to New York City’s building code, saying that Hurricane Sandy exposed significant deficiencies in the ability of both commercial and residential properties to withstand severe weather.

At a morning news conference, Mr. Bloomberg unveiled the work of a task force that he and the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, convened after the hurricane that is recommending some of the most extensive revisions in the building code in years.

“We have to be able to withstand and recover quickly from all hazards posed by climate change,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement. “The specific recommendations cover important ways to make every kind of building in the city safer from future storms.”

The rules would require doors and windows in new buildings to be wind resistant. They would mandate backup power so that stairwells and hallways are lighted during blackouts. And they call for single-family homes to have control valves on sewage systems to prevent sewage backflow into basements.

The costs of the new regulations are expected to vary widely, but could reach into the millions of dollars for new commercial projects.

For now, at least, the city will not require wide-ranging improvements to existing commercial and residential properties. Officials emphasized that the new rules would largely affect new construction and major renovations on existing buildings.

The task force also went beyond buildings to recommend that if the state does not require gas stations to have backup generators so their electric pumps work during power failures, the city should.

“In the days following Superstorm Sandy, about half of New York City’s service stations were not operational, delaying recovery efforts and disrupting work and life for hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses,” the task force report said.

The changes to the building code would have to be approved by the City Council, officials said.

In his final months in office, Mr. Bloomberg is focusing intensely on ensuring that the city learns from the experience of Hurricane Sandy and prepares for future storms and other severe weather. This week, he released a $20 billion plan for infrastructure along the city’s 520 miles of coast, including a network of flood walls, levees and bulkheads.

Russell Unger, who was chairman of the task force of more than 200 building experts, property owners and city officials, said the proposals reflected a fundamental change in thinking about how to deal with emergencies.

“We saw things during Sandy that we don’t want to see again — people shivering in blankets, sewers backing up in basements, people groping in the dark,” said Mr. Unger, executive director of the Urban Green Council, a sustainable building organization.

“Previously, we thought about getting people out of buildings safely and as soon as possible,” he said. “But when it comes to where people live, emergency preparedness also means ensuring that the places are habitable for long periods, even if they don’t have all the services. All of these things we’ve addressed.”

Members of the task force said they tried to strike a balance between cost and improving the ability of buildings to withstand severe weather.

“Although there will be some increase in the cost of construction, we have to recognize that Sandy was a wake-up call and action is required,” said Gerard Romski, a lawyer for Arverne by the Sea, an ocean front residential development in the Rockaways that was built to withstand storms and survived Hurricane Sandy well.

“In the end I believe that many of the recommendations will not only save lives but actually result in cost savings,” he said.

We were out of power for all 11 days - but went to a hotel.
CLP outage map just after the October 2011 nor'easter. Black areas are those where there was little or no power.

PURA Taking Second Look At CL&P Storm Investigation
The Hartford Courant
By BRIAN DOWLING, bdowling@courant.com
8:57 PM EDT, April 18, 2013

Connecticut's utility regulators are taking a second look at their summer investigation of Connecticut Light & Power following some sleuthing by the state's attorney general.

The state's Public Utilities Regulatory Authority opened formal proceedings into whether Connecticut Light & Power "impaired and impeded" their review of the utility's response to the October 2011 Nor'easter by withholding critical documents.

The renewed look into the 2011 storm is in response to the state's attorney general releasing documents that indicated the utility internally questioned the feasibility of the restoration estimates that it released to the public. Those documents, acquired during an investigation by Attorney General George Jepsen, were not produced for regulators when they reviewed the utilities' storm response.

Connecticut Light & Power last week said that it disagreed with the attorney general's claims and that it "provided PURA all the documents it requested and provided the AG all the documents he requested."

The utility did not respond to calls Thursday evening for comment.

The proceedings run by PURA will include testimony, hearings and public comment into the matter. "If the PURA finds that CL&P hindered the … investigation, CL&P could be subject to a fine or other administrative remedy," said and email received late Thursday from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the state department in which PURA resides.

The documents -- produced for the attorney general but not PURA -- give evidence that a number of managers were openly doubtful that power could be substantially restored by the Nov. 6 date that then-CL&P President Jeffrey Butler promised to the state.

Those estimates were put forward only days after a freak October snowstorm hit, loading leafy tree branches with snow that eventually fell onto electrical wires and poles around the state.

The utility stood by its estimates until the day of the deadline, and said during regulatory proceedings this summer that the estimates were believed to be attainable and were "generated in good faith using the best information it had available at that time."

The documents released by the attorney general last week pointed to the contrary. In one example, a regional director said unless he received substantially more line workers, he would be unable to make the 99 percent restoration target that CL&P executives said would be attainable.

"Unless I receive 33% more crews than what I presently have allocated through today, for each AWC, my effort to support the 99% company target will be significantly compromised," said an email from Bruce Bernier, director of western operations for CL&P, dated Nov. 3. "As you know my estimate for 99% was originally calculated to be November 8th."

Last Tuesday, Jepsen filed this email and others with regulators and asked that they reject a portion of the utility's request to recoup $414 million in storm costs from 2011 and 2012, $175 million of which were from the October storm.

Jepsen said that the utility's failure to present regulators with these documents undermined the investigation, and CL&P "should be penalized for this conduct in a manner sufficient to deter it and others from engaging in this type of behavior in the future."

Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant

AG charges CL&P withheld key memos about slow response to 2011 storm
Keith M. Phaneuf, CT MIRROR
April 9, 2013

State Attorney General George C. Jepsen charged Connecticut's largest electric utility Tuesday with withholding key internal memos from investigators about its slow response to the October 2011 Nor'Easter that left more than 800,000 homes and businesses without power for as many as 11 days.

Jepsen petitioned the state's Public Utility Regulatory Authority to impose new penalties against Connecticut Light & Power Co., arguing CL&P withheld internal handwritten memos, emails, and emergency worker log entries all tied to a prolonged response effort that drew heavy criticism from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other state officials.

Those documents eventually were produced, but only after an initial PURA investigation had been completed, according to a report released Tuesday by the attorney general's office.

Meanwhile CL&P countered that it properly responded to the state's "thorough" regulatory review process, and noted it has taken several steps over the last two years to enhance its storm response efforts.

"As the restoration from the October Nor'easter proceeded, CL&P committed to the governor, municipal officials and its customers that it would restore 99 percent of all homes and businesses in each town it served by midnight on Nov. 6," Jepsen said, referring to the storm that dumped up to two feet on parts of Connecticut on Oct. 29, 2011. "The documents produced are relevant to whether the Nov. 6 restoration projection was reasonable and whether CL&P knew that estimate was attainable."

Jepsen continued, "CL&P's failure to provide complete and accurate documents undermined PURA's investigation. The company should be penalized for this conduct in a manner sufficient to deter it and others from engaging in this type of behavior in the future."

According to Jepsen, among the documents released after the initial PURA investigation were:

    A handwritten note by CL&P's senior official in charge of restoration in the hard-hit Central Division, dated Nov. 1, saying she provided a 99 percent restoration estimate of Nov. 9 at 6:00 p.m. if she received 20 additional crews.

    Handwritten notes dated Nov. 1, made by another senior CL&P official who surveyed area commanders for their 99 percent restoration estimates. The notes indicate many commanders projected restoration dates beyond Nov. 6 for the towns in their area, and as late at Nov. 9 for Hartford.

    An email, dated Nov. 3 at 11:59 p.m., from a CL&P day shift commander for the Simsbury area work center providing revised restoration estimates for a few towns in the Farmington Valley that were requested by superiors, while noting that they are "Quite the work of fiction...I took a swag [scientific wild-assed guess]...I don't think this should be shared with any town official as it is not really a good picture of what we are doing."

    Handwritten notes of the CL&P Central Division Commander from a 6:00 a.m. call on Nov. 6 noting that she had reported to her superiors that even if she received expected additional crews, many towns would still have 50 percent outages by midnight Nov. 6 and would not be 99 percent restored until as late as Tuesday, Nov. 8.

    A requested report from CL&P to the governor's office of expected restoration times, sent at 8:49 a.m. on Nov. 6, which appears to completely ignore the projections reported at 6:00 a.m. that morning by the Central Division Commander and containing no restoration projections beyond Nov. 7.

    And handwritten notes of a senior CL&P commander working in the Simsbury area work center entitled, "Storm Alfred Restoration Observations," which included the following: "[m]ore severe damage, widespread," "[n]o acknowledgement of damage extent when providing restoration projections (mgmt. v. public goals)" and "99 percent for ea. town@ same time unrealistic."

But CL&P issued a statement Tuesday disputing Jepsen's charges.

"All of the information in the AG's filing refers to the 2011 storms, which CL&P voluntarily provided to his office," it read. "We will address these claims during the course of this proceeding.  It is important to note that CL&P worked tirelessly with PURA during its investigation into the 2011 storms while at the same time implementing recommended changes.  We believe we have strengthened our storm response since then and remain committed to responding safely and quickly to future storms."

Shortly after the late-2011 storm, then-CL&P President Jeffrey Butler resigned and the company announced new administrative assignments to improve readiness for future storms.

Tuesday, Malloy commended Jepsen for his action and diligence. His office pointed out the governor's  “clear record of holding the state’s utility companies accountable. ” Spokesman Andrew Doba added that  “The storm legislation he championed last session increases the penalties utilities face if they don’t meet enhanced standards and benchmarks for both storm preparation and response.”

An independent report ordered by Malloy concluded in early December 2011 that CL&P was unprepared for the 809,000 outages it faced, noting that CL&P's "worst-case scenario" plan offered little guidance for outages beyond 100,000 customers.

Witt Associates of Washington, D.C., also concluded that CL&P's insistence that it could resolve 99 percent of outages by Nov. 6 -- while the utility's internal models showed 100 percent of power being restored by Nov. 9 -- exacerbated community frustration with Connecticut's largest electric utility.

A state study group formed by the governor echoed those findings one month later.

31, 44, zero, out during 25.5 inch blizzard Feb.8-9;  Sunday, power restored from outages caused by tree at intersection (Broad St/Weston Rd),
I didn't miss Selectmen on Thursday thanks to vimeo replay online.  This was a very significant meeting because every itemon agenda was major - see here.

Home from Boston, the FORUM editorial staff is on the job!
Obama approves emergency declaration for Connecticut; non-essential state employees asked to stay home Monday

Weston FORUM
By Kimberly Donnelly on February 10, 2013 in Connecticut

SUNDAY, 5PM – Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is asking all nonessential state employees to stay home on Monday, Feb. 11, as the clean up effort from this weekend’s blizzard continues. However, the governor said evening and midnight shift employees should plan on reporting to work as normal on Monday.

“Getting streets clear and making them safer for everyone is a priority, so I am asking nonessential state employees to stay home tomorrow,” said Mr. Malloy. “I understand that everyone wants to get back to normal as quickly as possible. Crews are working around the clock to accomplish that goal. But the last thing we need at this point is a typical morning rush hour commute. Traffic build-up will only delay the effort to clear our roads.”

The governor announced earlier today that his request for a presidential emergency declaration in the wake of Friday’s historic winter storm has been approved. In addition, he is urging residents to continue staying off the roads today unless absolutely necessary.

“This declaration will provide much needed assistance to the state and our towns and cities as we continue to recover from this historic winter storm,” said Mr. Malloy. “While the ban on travel has been lifted, we are continuing to urge residents to stay off the roads, if at all possible. This is particularly true for tractor trailers. Every time someone gets stuck, it is preventing plows from doing their jobs.”

This emergency declaration provides for direct federal assistance, including possible snow removal equipment and personnel, power generation, and other commodities. The declaration also provides federal disaster funding for 75% of the cost of emergency protective measures incurred by municipalities, state agencies, and eligible non profits for a 48-hour period.

Mr. Malloy also stressed the following:

Jan. 31, 2013 WINDS: 
Outages Legend (l); worse earlier, @6:30am (not pictured), by 11am Thurs. next;  later 13% (519 households) in Weston.  Fri. 10am - 59 (1%);  11pm Fri. ONE CUSTOMER STILL OUT!

Shoreline Task Force recommendations face financial and other difficulties
Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
January 29, 2013

A year ago, with the destruction of Tropical Storm Irene still raw, Rep. James Albis, D-East Haven, took a look at computer modeling that showed his district after a category 2 hurricane.

It was pretty much underwater.

So Albis suggested forming a task force to look at the spectrum of issues around managing the Connecticut coastline for what many believe are the new climate realities. Three raucous public hearings, a parade of experts and countless meetings later, the Shoreline Preservation Task Force has its answers in the form of 37 recommendations.

It also has a dose of reality. 

"The biggest immediate concern is the fact that the state is kind of broke," said Albis, who wound up leading the 20-person task force drawn mostly from the legislature, but also from various expert ranks. "Many of the recommendations had financial implications. I've been told that any bill with a fiscal note this year is basically DOA."

Financial issues aside, the recommendations also seem poised to re-ignite controversies that nearly sank shoreline protection legislation last session. Task force members have been complimentary beyond diplomatic in assessing how well they've worked together.

But it is evident that old battles over private property rights, home rule vs. state mandates, the authority of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the use of classic shoreline armoring -- seawalls -- and the truth that shoreline communities get a huge percentage of their tax base from heavily taxed shoreline properties will erupt again as these recommendations wind their way through the legislative process.

"I would argue that there are still a number of things that are not yet resolved," said Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, a task force member. "So even though we came to terms on something approaching consensus in generating a report, there are still -- if not divisions -- fundamentally different points of view on how we might best move forward in this.

"What I see happening going forward, if there's going to be legislation, it will be moderate in scope and tone."

Private property

One of the key battles would likely be fought over private property rights. Language reasserting such rights was inserted into last year's legislation and language that called for "strategic retreat of property ownership" for certain coastal areas was eliminated, largely at the insistence of Sen. Len Fasano, R-Hamden, who is a task force member and represents East Haven, including the hard-hit Cosey Beach area. He owns a home there, as well as a beach club that was seriously damaged by Irene and again by Sandy.

"My concern is some folks may try to use those two storms to further their goal of retreating from the shoreline," Fasano said. "While I think there should be better planning and I think we need to do things that are smarter, I don't want to see people who are being forced from the shoreline against their will."

That concern, along with home rule issues and the urgent need for municipal revenue from high shoreline property taxes resulted in the task force treading lightly in some areas. A proposal for state-mandated shoreline setbacks based on local geography was voted down.

Language on other recommendations like pre-authorization for storm damage repairs, streamlining approvals for seawall and other reinforcing structures and consideration of the broader impacts of individual shoreline actions was parsed to accommodate not just those concerned with individual rights, but also the-more-than-a few task force members who repeatedly expressed concerns that the suggestions would simply condone the rebuilding of structures that had already failed.

"If it had been up to me, I would have been more forceful on considering the environment and considering impacts of shoreline structures on neighboring properties and on the environment," said member Jennifer O'Donnell, principal engineer with Coastal Ocean Analytics. "I wasn't voted into my office so I don't have to worry about making my constituents happy and finding something that will be politically feasible."

DEEP too powerful?

DEEP came in for a good deal of criticism from the public and a number of task force members who felt the agency wields too much power through regulations and practices that are often a mystery to those unschooled in government operations.

"DEEP is a formidable agency," Fasano said. "They get mad when I say this, but it's the truth -- they are equivalent to the IRS. When the IRS has you in their sights, cut a deal, because it can only get worse. DEEP is exactly that."

A whole section of recommendations focused on ways to rein in DEEP, speed its processes, improve its relationship with municipalities, and there was even discussion about whether to spin off certain DEEP responsibilities to cities and towns. The very first recommendation is for DEEP to produce a best practices guide for permitting coastal structures, though the task force insisted it be done under its guiding eye.

DEEP legislative liaison Robert LaFrance conceded that processes were often slow and the agency is working on improving its regulatory relationships. Commissioner Dan Esty, he said, would be meeting with task force next month

"The commissioner wants to address them, set the record straight," LaFrance said. "We did just pass a law last year and we really want to let that roll out a bit."

But Steinberg saw DEEP's shrinking staff and finances at the root of the agency's problems. "We have to find a way to provide DEEP with the resources to do the job we've mandated they do," he said. "I see DEEP as part of the solution."

In fact the bulk of the recommendations are focused directly or indirectly on municipalities. From better enforcement of consideration of sea level rise in planning and zoning to a specific mandate that propane and other fuel tanks be secured before a storm -- much of what the task force is after would likely fall on local government.

Branford ahead of the curve

It's exactly the sort of thing the town of Branford -- battered in both Irene and Sandy -- is already beginning to do in much the way the task force envisions. In recent weeks it changed zoning ordinances to waive most variance requirements for shoreline property owners who want to or have to elevate to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency specifications. Branford also waived building and zoning fees for storm repairs and made it harder for homeowners to skirt FEMA regulations.

"It's not a mechanism to go build the Taj Majal," said Laura Magaraci, Branford's zoning enforcement officer. "It's just a measure to get them out of the flood zone."

For Paula Brown, whose shoreline cottage flooded during Sandy, it means less time and money to elevate her house to FEMA standards even though she's not required to. Even without the extra costs, she expects the price to hit $200,000. "It's a daunting task," she said. "I only see one solution to keep this from happening and that would be to have the house raised."

Janice Plaziak, the town engineer and flood plain manager, said Branford could benefit from a number of the task force recommendations -- the mandate to secure propane tanks and the pre-authorizations for storm repairs. The only access road to the 400-plus homes where Brown lives flooded and partially collapsed in both storms.

"It's a challenge," Plaziak said of preparing Branford's long coastline for more storms and higher seas. "In addition to it being people's private property -- and we have to respect private property rights certainly -- we also still have the fact that it's a huge tax base."

And task force members have not lost sight of that

"We've had a lot of people complain, well we're just dealing with people along the shoreline who are rich people living large and why do we need to be focusing on that," said Rep. Lonnie Reed, D-Branford, a task force member. "The reality is that's your grand list.

"Those people are big property tax payers," she said, "and those people help maintain and improve our schools so it impacts everyone."

Money problems, Reed added, cannot be an excuse.

"If you don't address it, the issue does not go away," she said. "We invest now or we invest later.

"We're going to have to figure out how to prioritize because it's a public safety issue. It's a community issue."

Despite the differences, one recommendation seems to have widespread support as the best place to start -- an inventory of high hazard areas and shoreline infrastructure at risk.

"We can't really implement any solutions until we know what we're dealing with, so that's, I think, number one," Chairman Albis said.

But as for the money for those solutions, he added: "I think we may have to pass on some of those things."

CL&P Power Point explanation of how the power supply system works...then q&a - read about it and see our "picture story" here.  Or was a personal "power plant" - better known as a Generator...

N.Y. ignored superstorm warnings
Reports urged state, NYC to prepare as far back as 1978
New London DAY
By MICHAEL GORMLEY Associated Press
Article published Dec 9, 2012

Albany, N.Y. - More than three decades before Superstorm Sandy, a state law and a series of legislative reports began warning New York politicians to prepare for a storm of historic proportions, spelling out scenarios eerily similar to what actually happened: a towering storm surge. Overwhelming flooding. Swamped subway lines. Widespread power outages. The Rockaways peninsula was deemed among the "most at risk."

But most of the warnings and a requirement in a 1978 law to create a regularly updated plan for the restoration of "vital services" after a storm went mostly unheeded, either because of tight budgets or the lack of political will to prepare for a hypothetical storm that may never hit.

Some of the thorniest problems after Sandy, including a gasoline shortage, the lack of temporary housing and the flooding of commuter tunnels, ended up being dealt with largely on the fly.

"I don't know that anyone believed," acknowledged Gov. Andrew Cuomo this past week. "We had never seen a storm like this. So it is very hard to anticipate something that you have never experienced."

Asked how well prepared state officials were for Sandy, Cuomo said, "not well enough."

It wasn't as if the legislative actions over the years were subtle. They all had a common, emphatic theme: Act immediately before it's too late.

The 1978 executive law required a standing state Disaster Preparedness Commission to meet at least twice a year to create and update disaster plans. It mandated the state to address temporary housing needs after a disaster, create a detailed plan to restore services, maintain sewage treatment, prevent fires, assure generators "sufficient to supply" nursing homes and other health facilities, and "protect and assure uninterrupted delivery of services, medicines, water, food, energy and fuel."

Reports in 2005, 2006 and 2010 added urgency. "It's not a question of whether a strong hurricane will hit New York City," the 2006 Assembly report warned. "It's just a question of when."

A 2010 task force report to the Legislature concluded: "The combination of rising sea level, continuing climate change, and more development in high-risk areas has raised the level of New York's vulnerability to coast storms. ... The challenge is real, and sea level rise will progress regardless of New York's response."

The Disaster Preparedness Commission met twice a year some years, but there are gaps in which there is no record of a meeting. However, some administrations, including Cuomo's, convened many of the same agency heads to discuss emergency management. But even under Cuomo, who has taken a much greater interest in emergency management after three violent storms in his first two years in office, there are still three vacancies on the commission.

Richard Brodsky, a former New York Democratic assemblyman who was chairman of the committee that created the 2006 report, credits administrations with making some improvements to the plan in recent years, such as requiring a specific plan to protect and evacuate the infirmed and to save pets.

"But on two issues related to Sandy - prevention and recovery - they did almost nothing," Brodsky said. "If Goldman Sachs was smart enough to sandbag its building, why wasn't the MTA smart enough to sandbag the Battery Tunnel?"

Sandy flooded both tubes of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, now called the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, which was one of the major and longest transportation disruptions of the storm.

Among the other crises Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg faced on a daily basis during Sandy were the shortage of temporary housing, which continues, the long disruption of electricity and gasoline, generators in health care facilities swamped by floodwaters, restoring power from swamped electrical infrastructure and repairing commuter rail lines.

The warnings touched on many of these areas, but mostly in a broad way with few specific directions for action. Some areas, such as a shortage of shelters in New York City and repairing commuter rail lines quickly, have improved in recent years to some degree, but other areas such as making sure health facility generators are on upper floors are newly realized problems forced by Sandy, according to the former legislators.

"What you've got here is a great number of consequences that were foreseeable, but unforeseen," Brodsky said "Prevention is politically less sexy than disaster response."

There was another obstacle to enacting calls for more preparation: funding. The state and city were each facing $1 billion deficits from a slow economic recovery before Sandy hit.

"As your budget shrinks, the first thing that goes out the door is emergency management, the first thing," said Michael Balboni, New York's disaster preparedness point man in the Republican-led Senate and in the Democratic Spitzer and Paterson administrations from 2001 to 2009.

"To take the 1978 law and really enable it, you need to put a ton of money behind it and there was no political will to do it," said Balboni, now heads an emergency management firm in Manhattan.

Cuomo is now asking the federal government for more than $32 billion to cover the immediate costs triggered by Sandy, and another $9 billion for preventive measures to better protect the area for the next big storm.

The Cuomo administration insists that it has had robust emergency planning and clearly made important changes after tropical storms Irene and Lee slammed much of upstate and threw a scare into New York City in 2011. The administration created three regional disaster logistics centers and conducted training and exercises and before Sandy took extensive preparatory steps learned from Irene to "preposition" equipment and top staff and National Guard troops around the state.

"These initiatives were intended to strengthen the existing emergency response infrastructure which had not previously been a priority for the state before Gov. Cuomo took office," the Cuomo administration told the AP in a statement.

Spokesmen for previous administrations and for Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn't respond to requests for comment.

Like the state, the city has talked up storm preparedness in a series of hurricane and climate change plans since 2000. And it has taken some concrete steps, such as requiring some new developments in flood zones to be elevated, eliminating roadblocks to putting boilers and electrical equipment above the ground and restoring wetlands as natural storm-surge barriers.

Still, the city wasn't expecting Sandy, Bloomberg said in a speech this past week. The Federal Emergency Management Agency had figured there was only a 1 percent chance that the Battery in lower Manhattan would see the 14 feet of water Sandy sent in, he said; the previous record, set in 1960, was 11 feet.

Bloomberg said the city would reassess building codes and evacuation zone borders, look at ways to flood-proof power and transportation networks, make sure hospitals are better prepared and do an engineering analysis of whether to build levees, dunes or other structures to protect the coast.

Malloy seeks $3.2 billion to protect state from future storms
Ana Radelat, CT MIRROR
December 3, 2012

Washington -- Gov. Dannel Malloy Monday asked the Obama administration for $3.2 billion to protect Connecticut from another super storm like Sandy by burying electric transmission lines and building new seawalls.

Malloy also put the total estimated cost of Sandy's damage to Connecticut at $660 million. That figure includes both insured and uninsured losses and the destruction of both private and public property, he said.

Malloy also cautioned that the estimate is likely to rise as damage assessments continue.

The governor said he planned to ask the U.S. Office of Management and Budget Monday for $3.2 billion for mitigation efforts. Those include a series of Army Corps of Engineer flood protection projects, including the construction of new seawalls.

Dan DeSimone, the director of Connecticut's Washington office, said the money would also be used to improve and relocate sewage treatment plants along the coast, improve and fortify vulnerable state and municipal airports and upgrade communication systems so they are storm-proof.

But DeSimone said the bulk of the $3.2 billion would be focused on improvements to Connecticut's electric transmission system, "replacing old infrastructure, burying lines in critical or high density areas (and) establishing micro-grids in high density areas to preserve vital functions."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had already submitted their emergency requests to the federal government, totalling about $79 billion for both states.  Cuomo was also in Washington Monday pressing for money for his state. The New York governor met with congressional appropriators and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, about his request for $42 billion.  But it's not clear what will become of the bids for money from the governors of Sandy-slammed states.

The Office of Management and Budget must first review the requests, then send a final determination to Congress.  Congressional appropriators expect OMB to send them a formal request for Sandy funds this week.  But Jennifer Hing, press secretary for the House Appropriations Committee, said no one on Capitol Hill knows what the total figure will be. Whatever it is, it's likely to be cut back by the GOP-controlled House Appropriations panel.

"Once we get the request the committee will give it a good scrub and make a determination on what is needed," Hing said.

She pointed out that Congress' initial appropriation for Hurricane Katrina, the most expensive storm on record, was $60 billion, substantially less than the governors are asking for in Sandy aid.  Then there's the question of how fast Malloy and the other governors will receive Sandy funds.

Congress is in a lame duck session that's expected to end before Christmas, and it has much to do during this brief period. That includes trying to find a way to avoid a looming "fiscal cliff," when a series of tax cuts expire at the end of the year and deep, automatic spending cuts are implemented. Economists and others have said that going over the so-called cliff could plunge the nation back into a recession.  Sandy funds could be part of negotiations over the fiscal cliff, or considered in separate legislation.

The debate over Sandy money could also be bumped to the new Congress next year.

"But all the lawmakers want this done sooner rather than later," said Rob Blumenthal, press secretary for the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Superstorm Sandy victims to receive aid and higher taxes
Last Updated: 10:27 AM, November 29, 2012
Posted: 10:25 AM, November 29, 2012

Superstorm Sandy may have one more nasty surprise still to come: higher taxes.

The math is simple and cruel. The storm left fewer properties standing, often wrecking waterfront communities that paid the highest taxes because of the desirability of living near the water.

Unless shore towns from Rhode Island to New Jersey get a big influx of aid from the state and federal governments, which are themselves strapped for cash, they will have no choice but to raise taxes on homes and businesses that survived to make up for the loss. Even with federal reimbursement of 75 percent, the towns — many of which were already struggling before the storm — could still be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars.

"Hopefully taxes won't go up; we all have individual bills that we're going to have to worry about," said Ralph Isaacs, a 71-year-old retired teacher whose home in Long Beach, N.Y., was flooded with 18 inches of water, knocking out the electricity and heat and forcing him and his wife into a rented recreational vehicle for 17 days. "We're pretty sure the insurance money is not going to cover everything."

Toms River, where 5,000 residents are still out of their homes, recently passed a $35 million emergency appropriation; debris removal alone is costing it $1 million a week. The township's Ortley Beach section, where property values and taxes were highest, saw 225 homes destroyed. Administrator Paul Shives asked state officials this week for three to five years of extra state aid.

Right now, he said, it is impossible for towns like his to even consider formulating a budget without knowing how much tax money will be coming in. Shore towns especially are expecting a wave of tax appeals from storm-damaged or destroyed homes that will lower the towns' tax bases, though that doesn't appear to have begun in earnest yet.

The realities have touched off an intense push to get the federal government to assume the largest share of the cost. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week upped his state's reimbursement request from $30 billion to $42 billion; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie asked Wednesday for $36.8 billion...

PURA plans formal review of CL&P’s storm performance
Weston FORUM
By Susan Wolf on November 21, 2012

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) has opened a formal docket to review the performance of Connecticut’s electric distribution companies and other public service companies in preparing for and responding to Storm Sandy.

Public Act 12-148, otherwise known as Gov. Malloy’s Storm Legislation, requires PURA to review utility company performance when more than 10% of an electric distribution company’s customers are without service for more than 48 consecutive hours, which was the case during Sandy.

Last May, in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene and an October nor’easter, the state legislature approved an emergency response bill initiated by the governor. The bill allowed PURA to establish minimum standards of performance for utility companies, among other things. PURA receives its regulatory authority from the state legislature.

Mitch Gross, Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P) spokesperson, said the company appreciates the comments it receives from municipalities and the public.

“We heard a lot of positive feedback from towns,” he said on communication and collaboration, which were described as “much improved.”

“We see every storm as a learning experience,” he said. “We will work with … all communities we serve to see where further improvements might be made.”

Mr. Gross said his company is looking forward to participating in the PURA review and to continuing its own internal examination of its performance “in a top to bottom review.”

According to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (EPA), information on PURA’s recent investigation, Docket No. 12-11-07, including all documents and rulings, will be updated continuously and can be found at ct.gov/pura.

The investigation will cover the state’s two major electric distribution companies: CL&P and The United Illuminating Company (UI), and also Connecticut Natural Gas Corporation, Yankee Gas Services Company and The Southern Connecticut Gas Company.

PURA will investigate the state’s telecommunications companies, cable television providers’ and water companies’ performance in a separate proceeding.

PURA’s standard regulatory investigation following major storms, since Storm Gloria in 1985, includes a forensic review of the performance of the electric distribution companies and the gas local distribution companies.

Their performance will be evaluated against the Gas and Electric Company Performance Standards PURA recently approved. The standards will include:

• Emergency planning

• Preparation for the specific storm

• Restoration performance

• Plans for mutual assistance and supplemental staff

• Communications with municipal and other public officials

PURA invites written and electronic comments from the public, including town officials, regarding their experience with the electric and natural gas utility companies in the aftermath of Storm Sandy. Comments will be accepted until the close of the administrative record of Docket No. 12-11-07.

Anyone wishing to comment on the docket can do so through public hearings that will be scheduled, the PURA web filing system at ct.gov/pura, or by email at dpuc.executivesecretary@po.state.ct.us or by sending written comments to: Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, Executive Secretary’s Office, 10 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051.

At the conclusion of this investigation the authority may order specific remedies, compliance filings and orders. In addition, PURA may determine whether other sanctions are warranted.

Malloy plans to use Sandy money to repair housing
Ana Radelat, CT MIRROR
April 19, 2013

Washington -- Gov. Dannel Malloy has proposed spending the lion's share of about $72 million in federal Hurricane Sandy money to upgrade and repair housing on the coast, leaving towns short of money to recover from the storm.

"We really tried to find the best allocation we could," said Anne Foley, Connecticut's undersecretary for Policy Development and Planning.

She said helping homeowners is the administration's first priority.

Connecticut was allocated $71.8 million in the first payout of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grants. That's much less than New Jersey, which was allocated $1.8 billion; New York state, which would receive $1.7 billion, and New York City, nearly $1.8 billion.

"While the damage we suffered from Storm Sandy was bad, we know that it could have been far, far worse," Malloy said in a statement. "One needs only to look to our neighbors in New York and New Jersey to see how much worse it could have been."

The grant money is the first allocation of $16 billion in CDBG funds approved by Congress in a Sandy relief bill earlier this year.

"This first allocation will help our rebuilding efforts, but the real goal is receiving funding that will help us to mitigate damage from future storms," Malloy said.

To receive the money, all states and New York City are required to give HUD an action plan proposing what they plan to do with the money, and then HUD must approve the plan.  Malloy's proposal is the first step in creating that action plan, which will provide more details of the administration's plan to recover from Sandy, Foley said.  The proposal is available for public comment on the website of the state Department of Economic and Community Development for seven days.

It proposes to spend $30 million on owner-occupied homes that suffered uninsured losses or need flood-proofing.  The money would be distributed under a new program run by Connecticut's Department of Housing. Second homes and homeowners who earn more than 120 percent of the area's median income would not be eligible for the grant money.

Another $26 million would be used to leverage more than $100 million in tax breaks and other money to repair and rehabilitate a number of multifamily housing units, mostly in Fairfield County.  Once again, the Department of Housing would distribute the money.

The proposal said Connecticut's Sandy-hit towns identified 88 storm-related projects that cost about $34.5 million. These include the repairs of public buildings and parks and recreational facilities. Malloy proposed $4 million to help fund these projects, about 6.4 percent of the amount of money the municipalities determined they needed.

The governor also proposed to spend another $4 million to leverage more money in grants and from other sources that could be used to cover the needs of small businesses hurt by the storm.

Last year, Malloy asked the federal government for $3.2 billion to help the state recover from Sandy and protect itself from the ravages of another storm. Most of the money requested, $2.58 billion, would go to bury power lines and make upgrades to the state's power transmission systems.

Malloy also requested $495 million to safeguard coastal towns from another bad storm.

It's unclear if the state will ever get that much money.

The proposal to HUD said future distributions of block grant funds may provide Connecticut with tens of millions of dollars to purchase emergency generators and construct seawalls and new drainage systems and other projects. But those distributions can be some time away. Under the Sandy bill, HUD has until September 2017 to distribute all CDGB grant money.

Financial impact of Hurricane Sandy unclear:
City is on track for a slight surplus, but analysts have not yet calculated the cost of recovering from Sandy
Kate King, Stamford ADVOCATE
Updated 10:40 p.m., Sunday, November 11, 2012

STAMFORD -- The financial aftermath of Hurricane Sandy looms over the city's budget, which is otherwise on track to end the fiscal year in the black.

The Office of Policy and Management's first-quarter projections show Stamford finishing 2012-13 with a $21,651 surplus, said Director Pete Privitera. The analysis does not take the hurricane into consideration.

"It's a positive report, a positive outlook, with the caveat that at this point in time we don't know the impact of the hurricane yet," Privitera told Finance Board members Thursday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will likely reimburse a portion of the expenses incurred during Hurricane Sandy. Stamford received $865,000 from FEMA last fiscal year for expenses related to Tropical Storm Irene and the 2011 October snowstorm. The agency completely reimbursed some expenses, such as debris removal, but labor-related costs were covered at a rate of 75 percent, Privitera said.

"There are going to be some expenses that aren't going to be reimbursed," Privitera said. "I don't know the magnitude of that yet."

Privitera said he has established a committee to track Sandy-related expenses and research reimbursement rates. The late-October storm felled trees and utility poles across the city and pummeled coastal parks and beaches.

"Due to undetermined storm costs including debris removal, staff overtime, public safety responsibilities and in some cases loss of operating non-tax revenue, this surplus could easily revert to a $1 million shortfall," Privitera wrote in a memorandum to elected officials. "It is too early to assess the financial impact of this storm including potential FEMA assistance."

Other drags on this year's budget include police overtime and anticipated revenue losses at the city-run nursing home, Privitera said. The Police Department is expected to end fiscal year 2013 with a $459,353 budget shortfall due mainly to overtime spending.

"Given the cyclical nature of overtime spending, we are projecting an average expenditure of $433,000 per month of overtime for the remainder of the fiscal year," Privitera wrote in his memorandum. "This represents a flat projection from the prior year."

Police Chief Jon Fontneau said he has redistributed manpower and plans to hire 13 new officers in an effort to control overtime expenses.

"I've taken officers out of specialty units and increased our patrol force, which would build up our squad and make it easier to meet the minimum manpower requirement," he said. "I'm also working very closely with Risk Manager Ann Marie Mones in tracking and working with our officers who are injured or sick and trying to bring them back to work quicker."

At Smith House, Privitera said he is projecting a $524,074 shortfall on top of the $1.3 million operating loss the municipal nursing home had already budgeted for this fiscal year. City officials are basing the projected deficit based on historic collection problems at Smith House.

"This projection is very conservative and approximately $0.5 million higher than that projected by the executive director," Privitera said in his memorandum.

Building permit revenue is again projected to exceed expectations, this time by an estimated $600,000, Privitera said. Building permits, largely associated with the new NBC Universal headquarters, bolstered the city's budget last fiscal year and brought in $1.5 million more than city officials anticipated.

Board of Finance Chairman Tim Abbazia said it is difficult to accurately predict the city's year-end budget results after only the first fiscal quarter. The first quarter of fiscal year 2012-13 ended Sept. 30.

"I don't really think there's really enough information to see anything different from the budget at this point," he said Friday. "The storm is going to have an effect, but as far as police and fire overtime -- police overtime is not unexpected. The Smith House is always uncertain."

Privitera had forecasted a nearly $1 million year-end deficit after the first fiscal quarter of 2011-12. Robust building permit and tax collection revenue boosted Stamford's budget in the fourth quarter of last fiscal year, however, helping the city end 2011-12 with a $5.8 million budget surplus.


CODE RED Check this out!

CL&P Releases Crews, Sends Help To New York
By, DAN HAAR, Hartford Courant
8:47 PM EST, November 8, 2012

CL&P sent 60 of its own employees Thursday to help with storm restoration in New York, and the company released crews that had come to Connecticut from other states.

The moves came a day after the last of the fixable outages caused by Sandy were restored.

The company had held onto 3,300 outside linemen and tree-clearing workers until it was clear that damage from Wednesday's nor'easter was under control. The CL&P emergency operations center in Berlin remained open through Wednesday.

Employees heading to New York included linemen, mechanics and other personnel, Connecticut Light & Power said in a written release. A few of them gathered at the company's headquarters before setting off.

They will work in New York, but they will stay in Stamford because of a shortage of lodging. CL&P made arrangements with Carl Kuehner, CEO of Building and Land Technology (BLT), developer of Harbor Point in Stamford, for the workers to stay in an apartment complex there.

"We greatly appreciate the generosity and support for our crews shown by Mr. Kuehner and many others during this restoration process," said CL&P president Bill Herdegen.

Northeast Utilities, the CL&P parent, previously sent about 30 employees from Yankee Gas Services and NSTAR's gas unit in Massachusetts.


Beginning with Monday morning, Oct. 29...

Then came Monday night thru Wednesday morning...when we lived on a hotel's generator;  Weston just about the worst in the state for % of outages.

Thursday brought significant progress statewide, but Weston still slogged along opening streets, the first step to recovery;

Friday dawned, with the obvious perception that the shoreline communitied were most intensely damaged (altho' if you were freezing in your inland house you might dispute this).

The weekend came, with Weston making progress but half the town still w/o power (see outage map, % by town above);

Tuesday marked the sure sign CL&P had gotten this storm under control!!!
DOWN TO THE SHORT HAIRS:   Weston has two customers affected now.  How CL&P avoided the Governor's wrath, perhaps, by leaving reconnecting Weston for last!  NOTE:  title of each pic shows day and time.  At 5:49pm Tuesday 5% (198) w/o power.  NOTE:  Redding had an unfortunate increase in the next days due to transformer blow up, and then things got better, eventually with zero outages...

PREVIOUSLY...We are tracking CL&P...Great to hear Gayle's voice = Town Website very informative, too!    Good article here, which explains storm.
Here she comes - OK:  TOP ROW:  First map is 10am Monday;  BY 11:16AM IT IS ZERO; make that 2 outages by noon.  And by 12:10pm we are 8% outage;  29% at 2pm  NEXT: 47% by 6pm and 92% by @7..and then into the stratosphere at 98%!  And then 99%.  By Wednesday it was down to 93%...still holding there throughout the day.  The 8pm Wednesday report seems to be a turning point...Thursday dawns with some restoration - but Weston still worst off in SWR.  No longer!  Oops!  Yup, we are the worst off...nope, on Saturday morning.  First Selectman suggests that the website is overemphasizing our outages.  But nontheless, here we are on Election Day with 10% still out of power (highest % but Greenwich wins on raw numbers).

Some additional notes...

FROM THE 31 OCT NYTIMES:  "...Connecticut Light and Power reported that more than 318,000 customers were out, including about two-thirds of its customers in Greenwich and New Canaan and 9 out of 10 in Weston. "  Map of late Wednsday.

Waterfront got the biggest hit this time.  The most well-known realestate, Lower Manhattan, looking like "Waterword" poster.

We cannot attend, thanks to the situation, but will try to find out what was said...down to 84% in advance of Board of Selectmen's meeting tonight.



1. Pledge of Allegiance
2. Discussion/decision regarding amending the Schedule of Selectmen’s meetings
for 2013
3. Storm update
4. Open Items - Updates
Grants- Gayle Weinstein
5. Any other business to come properly before the meeting.
6. Discussion/approval of the Special Board of Selectmen’s meeting minutes of October 18, 2012

UI says workers are being harassed
November 1, 2012 at 6:46 pm by Tom Cleary

During a 6 p.m. news briefing, United Illuminating senior vice president Tony Marone said workers in Bridgeport have reported being harassed by city residents while they’re trying to restore power to the city.

As of 6:45 p.m., Bridgeport had more than 23,000 UI customers without power, about 40 percent of the total customers in the city.  Marone said workers have been yelled at and have had eggs thrown at their trucks. He said one of the workers who was harassed is a lifelong Bridgeport resident who was working to restore power in his own city.

Gov. Dannel Malloy urged people to leave the UI workers alone and allow them to do their jobs.  He also reminded people that the workers didn’t cause the outages.

Marone responded to accusations made by Mayor Bill Finch that not enough resources were being used in the city. Finch said the city is being “shortchanged.”

Marone said they have restored power to thousands of customers over the past day, and have been making nothing short of a full effort in Bridgeport.  Marone said discussions were held with Bridgeport police about protection for crews, but was unsure if that occurred.

At an earlier news conference, held in Orange at the company’s HQ, CEO James Torgerson pleaded with people to stop throwing things at crews. “It’s disrespectful,” he said.

Utilities estimate most outages restored by Monday or Tuesday
Keith M. Phaneuf
November 1, 2012

The state’s two major electric utilities set deadlines of Monday and Tuesday next week for restoring the bulk of their 358,000 customers still without power since Hurricane Sandy subsided.  Connecticut Light & Power Co., the state’s largest electric utility, with 1.2 million customers, estimates it will have 98 percent of its 250,000 outstanding outages corrected by Monday or Tuesday.  United Illuminating, which was still facing nearly 108,000 customers without power early Thursday, projected it would have at least 95 percent of all outages corrected by midnight Monday.

If these projections are met, both utilities would have most outages corrected about one week after the hurricane's end. The storm subsided in the early morning hours Tuesday, Oct. 30.

“This is an estimate, it is not a guarantee,” Senior Vice President Bill Quinlan announced during an 8:30 a.m. briefing at the state's emergency operations center in the Hartford armory. Quinlan, who was extremely cautious in explaining his company’s first restoration projection since the storm ended, noted that something as simple as heavy rains or strong winds could interfere with that projection. “There are a lot of variables in this.”

Defending CL&P’s decision to stretch its projected deadline over two days next week, Quinlan said the company still is being much more precise than most other utilities along the country’s Eastern Seaboard.  Many other utilities are offering non-specific projections relying on vague phrases. For example, Quinlan said, some pledge to restore power “no earlier than” a far-off date. Others are more precise with time, but speak only of assisting “the majority of our customers” rather than projecting a specific percentage.

“We do believe this is a challenging target we’ve set for ourselves,” Quinlan said. "To achieve this is going to require an extraordinary amount of coordination in the field. ... If we can pull this off, in my view, this is among the best restorations in the industry.”

UI, which serves about 325,000 residences and businesses in south central and southwestern Connecticut, said at least 95 percent of its customers would have power restored by midnight Monday.

"We are proceeding full force to restore power to our customers as quickly and safely as possible," James P. Torgerson, UI's chief executive officer, wrote in a statement issued at 6 a.m. "Our damage assessment, safety inspection and road clearing crews have been working around the clock to pave the way for line and service crews to restore power."

Torgerson said crews already have restored service to 92,340 customers who lost power during Hurricane Sandy, and as of 6 a.m. another 107,968 outages remained.

"While damage assessment will continue, we are confident that we have gathered enough information to effectively allocate our resources where they are needed most to restore power," he added.

Both major electric utilities held off releasing restoration projections in the first two days after Sandy subsided, noting that their primary focus was on removing live downed wires and other safety hazards, assessing damages and restoring service to hospitals, police stations and other sites critical for public health and safety.  Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who was critical of CL&P's response to power restoration after major storms in August and October of last year, said Wednesday that he would continue to closely monitor restoration efforts this time as well.

"People who don't have power are beginning to lose their patience," the governor said. "Trust me, I get it.

"Let's wait and see what [utility officials] say," Malloy added. "And then please know that I'll do my best to hold them accountable to the people of Connecticut."

After CL&P needed 12 days -- three more than projected -- to restore all outages caused by an October 2011 nor'easter, the then company president, Jeffrey Butler, resigned. Butler had conceded that CL&P had struggled to secure the private contractors it needed.  And Northeast Utilities, CL&P's parent company, announced a number of reforms, including the appointment of a senior vice president to upgrade emergency preparedness.

A study panel formed by Malloy concluded last winter  that CL&P failed to adequately prepare for a scenario that involved more than 100,000 outages.

More than 450,000 Still Without Power, And The Frustration Is Mounting
Storm Kills Three; One Still Missing
The Hartford Courant
By JON LENDER and HILDA MUÑOZ, dowens@courant.com
1:44 PM EDT, October 31, 2012

Nerves are beginning to fray in some quarters in Connecticut, especially along the shoreline, where widespread power outages endure two days after Hurricane Sandy pummeled the state.

Utility company executives said Wednesday morning that they will announce a timetable on Thursday for when electric power will be restored to the vast majority of Connecticut customers who lost power during Hurricane Sandy.

At a morning briefing in the State Armory, the officials said they will complete damage assessments before releasing estimates for restoration — which they are wary about giving after public outrage last year when an announced deadline was missed by several days.

More than 630,000 customers statewide were without power at the peak of the outages. The number dropped below 500,000 Wednesday, with about 140,000 customers in the dark in United Illuminating's shoreline towns and 350,000 out in Connecticut Light & Power's territory, many of which are on the shoreline.

While some towns reported slow but steady progress in recovery efforts, officials in others were frustrated.

On Tuesday, Jayme Stevenson, first selectman in Darien, called the response from the CL&P line crews "very good," but on Wednesday she was less pleased.

"It's going extremely slowly, I have to be honest with you," Stevenson said early Wednesday afternoon. She said the town has a minimum of 50, probably 100 roads closed or inaccessible. The Post Road is clear, she said, but off that road, "our town is basically impassable."

"So in spite of what you hear from CL&P, we are not in restoration mode," Stevenson said. "We are still in 'make safe' recovery mode here."

"I hear that Norwalk is letting kids go out trick-or-treating at their own risk. We are nowhere near that," Stevenson said.

In Bridgeport, where 40,000 customers remained without, Mayor Bill Finch said, "To all of those residents who are without power, I share your frustration. The residents of Bridgeport deserve more attention from our utility provider."

He said United Illuminating and City Public Works crews are working in tandem to clear trees and debris from power lines.

On Tuesday, Adam Wood, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch's chief of staff, was pleased with United Illuminating's assurance that the majority of the city's residents would have power restored at the end of the day.

But Wednesday morning, Wood said "That simply wasn't the case." Of the 48,000 residents initially without power, Wood said 36,000 are still without it.

"The mayor is particularly frustrated because he doesn't believe there are enough crews working in Bridgeport, that there are more in surrounding suburbs," Wood said. "He continues to ask them for details about how many crews are working here. We are not able to get those details."

In Stonington, where more than 95 percent of the town remains without power, First Selectmen Edward Haberek Jr. said Wednesday morning that CL&P's response to southeastern Connecticut has been unacceptable.

Stonington has one line crew and one tree crew in town Tuesday and more than 63 "incidents" in which a tree or wire was blocking a road. The situation got more dire Wednesday morning when the backup generator at the Mystic treatment plant failed, forcing Haberek to issue a no-flush order while town officials scrambled to find another generator.

"Right now we are trying to find a generator big enough to at least get the system running short-term, but it is a crisis situation," Haberek said.

Haberek said that Stonington had one crew and they cleared three main arteries Tuesday. His biggest issue with CL&P was lack of planning for the entire southeastern Connecticut area.

Clinton First Selectman Willie Fritz said a half dozen streets are still impassable and much of the community is still without power.

"I tell people it's going to be the weekend,'' Fritz said about when power will return to the shoreline community. "Yesterday I got mad. It didn't start out well,'' said Fritz.

After complaining, he said CL&P sent more trucks to Clinton overnight.

The town closed its emergency shelter this morning but the town hall is still open as a charging station for residents.

Fritz said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was planning to visit Clinton this afternoon.

'Beginning To Make Some Real Progress'

As a general assessment, Malloy said: "Connecticut is now in full recovery and restoration mode. We are 100 percent focused on working with our residents, our cities, our towns to get everyone's life back to normal as quickly as possible. Just think of it: This is really literally [the] second day after the storm. We have a ways to go, but we're beginning to make some real progress."

Malloy planned to continue touring damage on the coastline, moving to eastern towns such as Stonington and New London after spending Tuesday mostly in Fairfield County.

Power outages climb as Hurricane Sandy makes landfall
Keith M. Phaneuf and Mark Pazniokas
October 29, 2012

As Hurricane Sandy made it long-awaited move to the shore Monday evening, power outages statewide shot up, approaching 400,000. And while gusting winds did the bulk of their damage in the state's southeastern corner, utility officials announced a pre-emptive move that would shut down service to another 50,000 in the Bridgeport area.

Despite reports that the hurricane would make landfall before 7 p.m., about three hours earlier than previous reports, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy remained cautious in his final media briefing, warning that the potential for several more hours of dangerous winds remained.

And the state's largest utility, Connecticut Light & Power Co., said that it already had made some progress restoring power, particularly in northwestern Connecticut, where storm winds had been the weakest.

"I would say that we're holding our own," Malloy said in opening the 6 p.m. briefing at the State Armory in Hartford, warning residents that outage totals almost certainly would continue to climb, followed by a lengthy restoration period. "If (power) goes down, when it goes down, it's going to be out for a long time."

By 7 p.m., CL&P had reported 15 communities experiencing outages for nearly 100 percent of its residential and business customers, with 14 of those towns lying in southeastern Connecticut. Stonington was the first community to hit that black mark.

The lone CL&P town outside of the southeast corner to approach 100 percent outages as of 7 p.m. was Weston, in Fairfield County.

Meanwhile, communities in much of central, north-central and northwestern Connecticut saw 20 percent or less of their homes and businesses lose power.

What to do if the '100-year flood' comes every year?
Mark Pazniokas and Keith M. Phaneuf
October 29, 2012

Just as Tropical Storm Irene exposed vulnerabilities in Connecticut's electric system last year, Hurricane Sandy is renewing questions about flood standards that have guided construction for decades on a wide range of coastal infrastructure.

Sandbags, silicone seals, concrete barriers and plastic sheeting were hurriedly pressed into service Monday to safeguard electrical substations built to the longstanding industry standard: the 100-year flood.

With coastal flooding endangering the substations for the second time in two years, state and utility officials acknowledge a greater urgency in coping with what scientists say could be an era of more frequent and more intense coastal storms.

"The 100-year standard of the past needs to be re-examined in light of changing circumstances," said Dan Esty, the commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

A sense of those changing circumstances was especially acute Monday in Stamford, where crews hired by Connecticut Light & Power were building a protective dike around a substation threatened by coastal flooding for the first time in recent history.

In Bridgeport, United Illuminating struggled for the second time in as many years with a decision to de-energize the Congress Street substation to avert catastrophic damage in the face of the rising waters of Long Island Sound.

"In all likelihood, that station will flood tonight," Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said at noon, before forecasters indicated the storm might make landfall sooner and weaken.

The noon high tide fell inches short of breaching the station, but a higher tide at midnight still was expected, at least in the early afternoon forecast, to force its precautionary shutdown, leaving about 40,000 customers in and around downtown Bridgeport in the dark.

Flood damage to a de-energized substation can be repaired within hours after the tide ebbs and water is pumped out, officials said. If energized when flooded, the damage is so extensive that repairs could take weeks.

Will crises become routine?

But a broader question faces the state: Do rising sea levels mean these crises will become routine until control rooms and other sensitive equipment on power stations and sewage-treatment plans are redesigned?

William Quinlan, the vice president of emergency preparedness for CL&P, said the utility is looking beyond the 100-year standard, given its experience in Stamford and with a substation in Branford that now seems vulnerable to storm surges.

"We are absolutely doing that at CL&P for these two substations, in particular," Quinlan said. "But these are not changes one makes overnight."

Tony Marone, a senior vice president at United Illuminating, said if the company was building a substation today, it would likely would prepare for a flood greater than UI's current official standard -- the 100-year flood, plus 1 foot.

Irene was only a tropical storm. Sandy is likely to reach Connecticut with less than hurricane-strength winds, albeit as part of a huge storm that merged with a winter system from the west.

But the bigger danger to coastal communities are sustained winds capable of driving ocean waters into Long Island Sound, which narrows like a funnel as it reaches west from the open Atlantic toward New Haven, Bridgeport and Stamford.

Water piles up as it passed through the funnel, with a surge of 11 feet capable of widespread damage above and beyond what the combination of high tides and wind-driven waves can do to coastal homes.

'Long-term harm'

"At 11 feet or anywhere near 11 feet, we are going to lose power stations. We are going to lose sewage treatment plants," Malloy said. "We are going to do some long-term harm to the state of Connecticut."

The issue is seen more urgently now after a string of major storms, but it has been a matter of concern in Connecticut for years. The General Assembly directed a planning process in 2008, and a preliminary climate change plan was finished in 2011.

With the governor's full support, Esty said, his department already was studying the issue of "adaptation" of infrastructure. Others began to focus on infrastructure design standards for shoreline communities last winter.

When Malloy formed a panel last fall to study the response to Tropical Storm Irene and an October nor'easter, many news reports focused on recommendations to increase tree-trimming near power lines, or on the need for utilities to secure line crews more expeditiously.

But the so-called Two-Storm Panel chaired by former state Economic Development Commissioner Joseph McGee also began a conversation on rising sea levels, corresponding high winds and their impact -- not only on power substations and sewage treatment plants, but also on homes, roads and bridges.

1960s data

Connecticut engineering drainage standards are based on National Weather Service rainfall data based on from the 1960s, the panel reported.

Modifying and implementing tougher design standards is a process that will take years, or maybe decades, McGee said Monday, adding that these lessons from 2011 couldn't have prevented the challenges posed now by Hurricane Sandy.

But the panel chairman added that it is important that state and municipal governments continue the focus on key environmental trends.

"The consultants who testified really pointed to a vulnerability in this state," he said.

The Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University testified last year that Connecticut is in the midst of a major increase in precipitation likely to continue over the next 40 years. It reported that sea levels are anticipated to rise by 1.5 feet by mid-century, and by three to five feet by century's end.

The panel also noted that the water surge during Irene, which hit Connecticut on Aug. 27, 2011, came dangerously close to flooding sewage treatment facilities. And reports from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection found that some raw sewage may have been discharged in instances when flood waters breached sewer overflow systems.

Neither storm was considered the "big one," at least not by the standards of wind damage, which has the potential reach across the entire state.

Irene downed about 2 percent of the state's trees, but the storm and the nor'easter that struck Connecticut on Oct. 29, 2011 "pale in comparison to the damage that will be inflicted on Connecticut by a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds between 100 to 120 mph," the panel wrote.

A storm of that force, it added, could bring down 70 to 80 percent of the state's trees.

What to do if the '100-year flood' comes every year?
Mark Pazniokas and Keith M. Phaneuf
October 29, 2012

Just as Tropical Storm Irene exposed vulnerabilities in Connecticut's electric system last year, Hurricane Sandy is renewing questions about flood standards that have guided construction for decades on a wide range of coastal infrastructure.

Sandbags, silicone seals, concrete barriers and plastic sheeting were hurriedly pressed into service Monday to safeguard electrical substations built to the longstanding industry standard: the 100-year flood.

With coastal flooding endangering the substations for the second time in two years, state and utility officials acknowledge a greater urgency in coping with what scientists say could be an era of more frequent and more intense coastal storms.

"The 100-year standard of the past needs to be re-examined in light of changing circumstances," said Dan Esty, the commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

A sense of those changing circumstances was especially acute Monday in Stamford, where crews hired by Connecticut Light & Power were building a protective dike around a substation threatened by coastal flooding for the first time in recent history.

In Bridgeport, United Illuminating struggled for the second time in as many years with a decision to de-energize the Congress Street substation to avert catastrophic damage in the face of the rising waters of Long Island Sound.

"In all likelihood, that station will flood tonight," Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said at noon, before forecasters indicated the storm might make landfall sooner and weaken.

The noon high tide fell inches short of breaching the station, but a higher tide at midnight still was expected, at least in the early afternoon forecast, to force its precautionary shutdown, leaving about 40,000 customers in and around downtown Bridgeport in the dark.

Flood damage to a de-energized substation can be repaired within hours after the tide ebbs and water is pumped out, officials said. If energized when flooded, the damage is so extensive that repairs could take weeks.

Will crises become routine?

But a broader question faces the state: Do rising sea levels mean these crises will become routine until control rooms and other sensitive equipment on power stations and sewage-treatment plans are redesigned?

William Quinlan, the vice president of emergency preparedness for CL&P, said the utility is looking beyond the 100-year standard, given its experience in Stamford and with a substation in Branford that now seems vulnerable to storm surges.

"We are absolutely doing that at CL&P for these two substations, in particular," Quinlan said. "But these are not changes one makes overnight."

Tony Marone, a senior vice president at United Illuminating, said if the company was building a substation today, it would likely would prepare for a flood greater than UI's current official standard -- the 100-year flood, plus 1 foot.

Irene was only a tropical storm. Sandy is likely to reach Connecticut with less than hurricane-strength winds, albeit as part of a huge storm that merged with a winter system from the west.

But the bigger danger to coastal communities are sustained winds capable of driving ocean waters into Long Island Sound, which narrows like a funnel as it reaches west from the open Atlantic toward New Haven, Bridgeport and Stamford.

Water piles up as it passed through the funnel, with a surge of 11 feet capable of widespread damage above and beyond what the combination of high tides and wind-driven waves can do to coastal homes.

'Long-term harm'

"At 11 feet or anywhere near 11 feet, we are going to lose power stations. We are going to lose sewage treatment plants," Malloy said. "We are going to do some long-term harm to the state of Connecticut."

The issue is seen more urgently now after a string of major storms, but it has been a matter of concern in Connecticut for years. The General Assembly directed a planning process in 2008, and a preliminary climate change plan was finished in 2011.

With the governor's full support, Esty said, his department already was studying the issue of "adaptation" of infrastructure. Others began to focus on infrastructure design standards for shoreline communities last winter.

When Malloy formed a panel last fall to study the response to Tropical Storm Irene and an October nor'easter, many news reports focused on recommendations to increase tree-trimming near power lines, or on the need for utilities to secure line crews more expeditiously.

But the so-called Two-Storm Panel chaired by former state Economic Development Commissioner Joseph McGee also began a conversation on rising sea levels, corresponding high winds and their impact -- not only on power substations and sewage treatment plants, but also on homes, roads and bridges.

1960s data

Connecticut engineering drainage standards are based on National Weather Service rainfall data based on from the 1960s, the panel reported.

Modifying and implementing tougher design standards is a process that will take years, or maybe decades, McGee said Monday, adding that these lessons from 2011 couldn't have prevented the challenges posed now by Hurricane Sandy.

But the panel chairman added that it is important that state and municipal governments continue the focus on key environmental trends.

"The consultants who testified really pointed to a vulnerability in this state," he said.

The Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University testified last year that Connecticut is in the midst of a major increase in precipitation likely to continue over the next 40 years. It reported that sea levels are anticipated to rise by 1.5 feet by mid-century, and by three to five feet by century's end.

The panel also noted that the water surge during Irene, which hit Connecticut on Aug. 27, 2011, came dangerously close to flooding sewage treatment facilities. And reports from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection found that some raw sewage may have been discharged in instances when flood waters breached sewer overflow systems.

Neither storm was considered the "big one," at least not by the standards of wind damage, which has the potential reach across the entire state.

Irene downed about 2 percent of the state's trees, but the storm and the nor'easter that struck Connecticut on Oct. 29, 2011 "pale in comparison to the damage that will be inflicted on Connecticut by a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds between 100 to 120 mph," the panel wrote.

A storm of that force, it added, could bring down 70 to 80 percent of the state's trees.

Malloy closes highways, but storm surge is biggest danger
Mark Pazniokas and Keith M. Phaneuf
October 29, 2012

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy ordered limited-access highways closed to all but emergency traffic by 1 p.m. today as sustained winds were expected to hit 40 mph by 3 p.m., with gusts between 50 and 90 mph. Winds are not forecast to subside until early Tuesday.

A ban on trucks took effect at 11 a.m., with the rest of the state's highways closed two hours later. Malloy urged everyone to abide by the closure, but he said state police enforcement would focus on large empty trucks that pose the greatest danger of tipping in high winds.

"What I'm hoping for is that people stay off the roads. That's what we're trying to get to," Malloy said. "If you are not being evacuated, stay home."

A storm surge on tonight's high tide is expected to cause record coastal flooding, endangering electric substations in Stamford, Bridgeport and Branford. Workers were building an emergency berm in Stamford.

United Illuminating is likely to shut off power to the Congress Street substation in Bridgepoprt before the midnight high tide, plunging the downtown into darkness and leaving its newspaper, the Connecticut Post, without power.  With a wind shift to the east, the noon high tide was not as bad as expected, Malloy said.

"It's the one at midnight tonight that we are most worried about," Malloy said. "We are looking for a surge of 7 to 11 feet above the normal hgh tide."

Malloy said officials feared that wave action combined with the surge could top an 11-foot dike in Stamford, where he was mayor for 14 years.  By noon, the National Guard had 1,150 soldiers on duty at armories throughout the state, ready with heavy equipment to clear roads and high-water vehicles capable of assisting local authorities with evacuations.  Col. John Whitford, the spokesman for the Guard, said 700 personnel are deployed overseas, as was the case last year during Irene and the Oct. 29 nor'easter. The Connecticut Guard has close to 5,000 members.  Bridgeport, the state's largest city, has huge numbers of residents located in evacuation zones deemed at high risk for flooding, the governor said, adding that emergency personnel continue to use buses to remove residents.

"Get out before you can't," Malloy said, urging residents in all communities to obey evacuation orders, adding that those living near rivers and streams affected by the tides in Long Island Sound also may need to move.

Executives from both of the state's major electric utilities, Connecticut Light & Power Co. and United Illuminating, warned they would shut down substations, blacking out thousands of residents, if flooding became certain.  William Quinlan, CL&P's vice president for emergency preparedness, said the state's largest electric utility was erecting a 6-foot-high concrete dike Monday morning to protect a crucial substation in Stamford that serves about 7,900 homes and businesses.

UI Vice President John Prete said his company continues to closely watch key shoreline substations in New Haven, Milford, Fairfield and Bridgeport, each of which serves between 6,000 and 20,000 customers. Though these stations never have been damaged yet to to flooding, the utility is considering pre-emptively shutting them down Monday to avoid something far worse.

"We can't have a catastrophic failure," he said, adding that were the facilities operating when breached by floodwaters, the damage caused would require "weeks, not days" to fix.

UI's Bridgeport Congress Street substation was shut down during Irene as a precaution. CL&P is trying to protect the Stamford station, because it backs into a hill and is already protected on two sides. Quinlan said the Branford station is too big to protect with a makeshift berm.  Quinlan said CL&P is studying its infrastructure to determine if historic flood maps still were relevant in judging risk.

Malloy said Long Island Sound acts as a funnel, narrowing at the western end, near Stamford and New York. Wind is driving the water west, with each successive tide hitting higher levels.

New York Plans to Suspend Transit Service
By MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ, Breaking news, 10:17am Sunday
October 28, 2012

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Sunday morning that subway, bus, and railroad service would be suspended beginning at 7 p.m.

Noting that it was unsafe to operate trains in high winds, Mr. Cuomo said the shutdown was also intended as a signal to discourage New York-area residents from being “up and about.”

Joseph J. Lhota, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said he expected the transit systems to restore at least some service about 12 hours after the storm ends. “I do think Monday and Tuesday are going to be difficult days,” Mr. hota said.

The announcement came as the National Hurricane Center warned of a “life-threatening storm surge” that could cause record-breaking coastal flooding from Delaware to Southern New England.

In its latest report, the hurricane center said it expected a surge of as much as 11 feet along Long Island Sound and Raritan Bay and warned that major flooding could occur across a broad swatch of the East Coast. In addition to surge, forecasters expected torrential rains in some regions, which would add to the flooding problems.

Thousands of people have been evacuated from low-lying areas, governors across the region have declared states of emergency, and federal officials have issued urgent warnings for people to prepare, saying that the storm’s impact would stretch from the mid-Atlantic to New England and as far inland as the Ohio Valley.  Tropical storm-strength winds lashed the North Carolina coast on Sunday morning and strong gales were expected up the Atlantic coast throughout the day.

While tracking models showed the center of Hurricane Sandy likely to make landfall late Monday evening or early Tuesday, the director of the National Hurricane Center, Rick Knabb, said that the weather was expected to worsen well before then.

The exact path of the storm was unclear, complicating preparation efforts. In its latest report on Sunday morning, the hurricane center said the storm was about 260 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., and moving northeast. Federal officials, in a briefing with reporters on Saturday afternoon, could not say for certain where the impact would be the worst — only that it would be major. More than 60,000 National Guard troops in nine states were ready to assist the local authorities.

In an indication of the storm’s enormous size, the tropical storm warning stretched all the way to Bermuda, 580 nautical miles away. In its latest forecast, the National Hurricane Center predicted hurricane-force winds to reach the mid-Atlantic state by late Monday.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York told residents to stay out of city parks starting on Sunday and to stock up on basic supplies. All construction was ordered to be suspended starting on Saturday night.

On Long Island, the Town of Islip ordered the mandatory evacuation of residents in low-lying areas, including Fire Island, by Sunday afternoon. Similar orders were issued in other coastal areas.

From Plymouth, Me., to Cape Hatteras, N.C., residents boarded up windows; stocked up on water, batteries and food; and prepared to hunker down. Airlines encouraged people with flights scheduled in the next few days to change their plans and waived cancellation fees.

At supply stores across the region, generators and other goods were snapped up in preparation for the possibility of extended power failures.

Sandbags joined the Halloween scarecrows along Main Street in Hightstown, N.J., on Saturday as business owners who suffered flood damage during Hurricane Irene last year braced themselves.

At a Home Depot in Yonkers, where propane cylinders were prominently displayed near the cash registers, generators were sold out by 6:30 on Saturday morning, within 30 minutes of opening, said Kareem Hiland, a store employee. “The line for them was out the door,” he said. “For batteries, too.”Experts warned that even if Hurricane Sandy decreased in strength, it would remain a danger because of the unusual convergence of several weather systems.

A system known as a midlatitude trough — which often causes severe winter storms — is moving across the country from the west. It is expected to draw in Hurricane Sandy, giving it added energy. A burst of arctic air is expected to sweep down through the Canadian Plains just as they are converging. That could lead to several feet of snow in West Virginia and lighter amounts in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The full moon on Monday could cause even greater flooding, with tides at their peak.

The hurricane was forecast to come ashore between the Delmarva Peninsula and Long Island. But as it continued to churn north, it began to spread out, with tropical storm-force winds extending about 520 miles from its center. On Saturday, it was still moving slowly north and had yet to make its predicted westward swing, at which point it will likely become clearer where it will make landfall.

Forecasters cautioned that the course of the storm could change, but officials from the National Hurricane Center said that it was no longer a question of if the storms would converge — but where and with how much force.

Dr. Knabb of the National Hurricane Center said the storm’s intensity was unlikely to change. “The center of circulation is only going to be a very small part of the story,” he said. “This is not just going to be a coastal event.” People from Virginia northward should be prepared for a “long-duration event,” he said.

Utility companies were rushing to put crews in place to deal with power failures, which state officials warned could be extensive and long lasting. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey told residents that they should be prepared to go 7 to 10 days without electricity. On Saturday evening, Amtrak began to cancel train service to parts of the East Coast, including between Washington, D.C., and New York.

Maureen Smith, 70, and her husband, Jim Dugan, 76, have been through hurricanes before, but on Saturday they were evacuated from North Wildwood, on the south shore of New Jersey.

“There was a sense of worry, because we do believe this will be serious,” she said.

With forecasters predicting this storm would be much worse than Hurricane Irene, which caused $15 billion in damage, many people were taking no chances. Bob Parise of North Wantagh, on Long Island, was scouring a hardware store.

“We learned our lesson from Irene and are better prepared,” he said. “I’ve got the generator and the gas. Now I’m just worried about the roof.”

Sandy expected to be worst Monday, Tuesday
By Joshua Fisher on October 27, 2012

...Sandy is expected to move north overnight and then turn north-northwest while increasing speed on Saturday before turning northeast on Sunday.  Southwest Connecticut and the tri-state area will start to feel the impacts of “a dangerous coastal storm late this weekend into early next week,” according to National Weather Service hazardous weather outlook issued Friday evening.

The storm has sustained winds of 75 mph with higher gusts, according to the National Weather Center. Sandy is currently a category one hurricane with hurricane-force winds extending up to 35 miles from its center.

The storm, however, is expected to be a bit weaker by the time it reaches the tri-state area. But that is also when it is forecast to collide with a storm moving in from Ohio and Pennsylvania and another weather system moving south from Canada. The three together will form what forecasters are calling “Frankenstorm.”

But it should be stressed that forecasters will have a much better idea of what to expect from these storms over the next 36 hours. As of right now, rain and wind could start on Sunday before things get worse on Monday and Tuesday.  The specific impacts, however, will ultimately depend on the exact track and evolution of Sandy as it interacts with a deepening upper level low pressure system approaching the East Coast, according to the weather service...

NEWS ALERT: State activates emergency center; Sandy’s force to be felt Sunday
By The Forum Staff on October 26, 2012

The projected path of Hurricane Sandy moved northeast, toward Connecticut, according to the latest potential track issued Friday evening by the National Hurricane Center. For the past few days, forecasters had continued to move the track to the southwest of the Nutmeg State.

Southwest Connecticut and the tri-state area will start to feel the impacts of “a dangerous coastal storm late this weekend into early next week,” according to National Weather Service hazardous weather outlook issued Friday evening.

“This includes the likelihood for heavy rainfall and resultant significant urban, small stream and river flooding, high winds causing widespread downing of trees and power lines, and significant shoreline impacts from coastal flooding and beach erosion.”

The full force of Sandy could hit Connecticut by Tuesday afternoon or as late as Wednesday but the area will start feeling the effects much earlier.

The specific impacts, however, will ultimately depend on the exact track and evolution of Sandy as it interacts with a deepening upper level low pressure system approaching the East Coast, according to the weather service.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy plans to partially activate the state’s Emergency Operations Center at 8 a.m. Saturday to coordinate the state’s response in advance of Hurricane Sandy.  Based on the current forecast, it is anticipated that the state EOC will go to full activation Sunday at 8 a.m.

“Now is the time to prepare,” Governor Malloy said Friday evening. “Although the exact track of the storm is still uncertain, we are preparing for this storm to have a significant impact on the state and the public should do the same.”

The state has launched a website dedicated to keeping state residents up-to-date on all pertinent information on Hurricane Sandy, which can be accessed at ct.gov/sandy.

Linemen Reject Contract
by Christine Stuart | Oct 8, 2012 11:01am

Connecticut Light and Power linemen overwhelmingly rejected a new contract offer from Northeast Utilities Friday.

Two International Brotherhood of Electrical Worker unions representing nearly 1,000 members rejected the offer, which included wage increases worth 10 percent over four years. But it was about more than salaries.

“It is unconscionable that as company executives rake in record salaries and bonuses, CL&P continues to cut staff, implement dangerous amounts of forced overtime, and replace skilled local workers with costly, inexperienced out-of-state contractors,” IBEW Local 420 and Local 457 said in a press release.

The number of trained lineworkers—a number that has dropped over the years—has long been a point of contention for the unions. The two unions have been working since June without a contract.

“We’re disappointed that union members voted “no” on CL&P’s comprehensive offer which included wage increases of 10 percent over four years,” Tricia Taskey Modifica, spokeswoman for Northeast Utilities, said Saturday. “This union has a history of voting multiple times, so we are still hopeful that we will come to an agreement.  We will be talking to the union leadership to discuss the next steps and continue to work toward getting a contract in place.”

The two unions called on the utility to come back to the table to discuss staffing levels. The utility says union work rules make it difficult for them to allocate staff, but the union says the problem is it doesn’t have enough staff.

The unions rallied last month at the state Capitol with AT&T union members to call attention to the staffing issues. It’s a complaint they’ve been logging since last year’s two storms which knock out power to hundreds of thousands of customers.

CL&P workers reject contract offer
Article published Oct 5, 2012

The union that represents about 1,000 Connecticut Light & Power workers announced Friday evening that more than 95 percent of members rejected a contract proposal from the company that union leadership said includes "dangerous cost-cutting measures."

"It is unconscionable that as company executives rake in record salaries and bonuses, CL&P continues to cut staff, implement dangerous amounts of forced overtime, and replace skilled local workers with costly, inexperienced out-of-state contractors," union leaders Frank Cirillo and John Fernandez said in a joint statement. Cirillo is business manager of IBEW Local 420 and Fernandez is business manager of IBEW Local 457.

Mitch Gross, spokesman for the utility, said Friday the union has a history of rejecting contracts one or more times before reaching a final agreement.

"We're disappointed that the union membership has voted 'no' to our offer to increase wages," he said. "We made a good offer and we hope to have a contract in place soon. The union leadership continues to use the media to distort the issues."

In its statement, the union urged business and community leaders and ratepayers to put pressure on the company "to ensure that ... massive profits do not come at the expense of safe and reliable power for Connecticut Communities."

The union also referred to the prolonged power outages that occurred after Tropical Storm Irene and the October 2011 snowstorm, saying a new contract agreement must correct "dangerous and inadequate staffing levels that have contributed to some of the worse storm response in Connecticut history."

Gross countered that CL&P staffing levels are in line with those of leading utilities.

"We have almost the same number of line workers as a year ago, and we've offered to add 30 more," he said.

Click above right for video of  surfing in L.I.S.

Power outage Tues. night and into Wed. (l. - not us, this time);  by 11:33am, Weston improves to 9%...
Three people still out at 10am Thursday.  11:33am Wednesday - 344 still out (r.);  FORUM Update 9/19/12, 8 a.m. — In the aftermath of last night’s storm, CL&P reports 783 homes, 20% of its customers in Weston, are without power. Approximately 500 of those outages are in the Godfrey Road and Valley Forge areas. Statewide, CL&P is reporting 18,217 outages. The Weston Communications Center said portions of roads are closed due to downed trees and wires  — Godfrey Road at Newtown Turnpike, and sections of Valley Forge Road and Old Redding Road. Weston Public Schools are in session.

Power outage @8:15pm-8:30pm for 360-plus homes in northern Weston, July 4, 2012.  As the fireworks went on, prior to brief thunderstorm, our lights went out!

Amphitheater effect:  And now, in March 2014, the notice in the mail from CL&P - name and address and pole number redacted by this website;  threats getting personal to my Kousa (r).  Amphitheatre:  That means choosing trees suited to their surroundings -- especially those destined for urban areas -- and in some locations moving toward a so-called amphitheater effect -- low trees under power lines, taller ones farther back.

OSHA Investigates Tree Workers' Death In Meriden
The Hartford Courant
12:49 PM EDT, June 12, 2014

MERIDEN — Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the death of a tree company employee Monday in Meriden.

Police said a tree crew doing work for Connecticut Light & Power was working at Lanouette Street and Lanouette Street Extension when a worker was hit in the head by a tree limb. The limb had been tied off, but began to swing, police said. The worker fell to the ground, and then the limb fell on him, severely injuring his upper body.

The worker, identified as Frank Cline, 26, of Dover Plains, N.Y., was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he later died.

He worked for Trees Inc. of Houston, Texas. Trees Inc. officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Copyright © 2014, The Hartford Courant

CL&P, UI balk at bearing expense of tree trimming alone

By Luther Turmelle, New Haven Register
Posted: 03/27/14, 8:25 PM EDT

NEW BRITAIN >> A Connecticut Light & Power executive told state regulators on Thursday that it is unrealistic to expect utility companies to bear the full expense of elaborate tree-trimming programs designed to insure electric power reliability.

Kenneth Bowes, vice president of engineering for CL&P, told commissioners with Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority that “the utilities are willing to do their part” to come up with a tree-trimming program that is acceptable to both regulators and the public. But Bowes warned that ratepayers and Connecticut communities must do their share to insure that trees are managed in such a way that they will not threaten the reliability of the electric grid.

“We can not do it alone,” Bowes said.

The CL&P executive made his comments at a three-hour long technical meeting held at PURA’s headquarters. PURA Chairman Art House and Vice Chairman John Betkoski spent most of the hearing asking probing questions of Bowes and his counterpart from United Illuminating, Jim Cole, the Orange based utility company’s director of distribution and transmission. The PURA commissioners turned the final hour over to public comments, and that led to some pointed exchanges between the utility executives and the public.

Ann Diamond of New Haven said she believes the utilities’ claim of fallen trees and branches being responsible for a majority of the power outages they have to deal with “is overstated.”

“Last week for the first time in 25 years, I had a power outage,” Diamond said. “And it was caused by a car hitting a utility pole.”

Diamond urged PURA to issue a ruling that scaled back what some customers of the two electric power companies say is a to aggressive clear cut approach, cutting down healthy trees located near power lines rather than trimming them. She said PURA’s ruling should include an effort to encourage the utilities to begin a long-term effort to bury power lines.

“We’re always on the paying side,” Diamond said of utility ratepayers. “When are the utilities going to start investing (in underground power lines)?”

But Cole said the cost to UI customers to bury its entire distribution network would be as much as $17 billion, which would add 42 cents per kilowatt hour to electric rates that are already some of the highest in the nation. The company serves more than 325,000 customers in 16 towns surrounding New Haven and Bridgeport.

Because CL&P has a much larger service territory that includes both urban and rural customers, the company’s cost to place all of its lines underground would be considerably larger than what UI is projecting. CL&P’s service territory covers 4,400 square miles, according to company officials, providing power to more than 1.2 million customers in 149 communities.

Eric Hammerling, executive director of the Connecticut Forest and Parks Association, accused both utilities of engaging in what he called “intimidation tactics” to get property owners to grant approval to cut down or trim trees on their land. While he did not mention CL&P by name, he noted that one of the utilities had said it was considering charging property owners who refuse to allow their trees to be trimmed for any future repair costs cause by fallen branches.

Bowes had mentioned the possibility of such a charge at a PURA meeting at the beginning of March. And while he said CL&P wasn’t considering implementing such a charge at this time, he did not completely rule it out either.

PURA is conducting the hearings after state officials called for updated tree-trimming plans in the aftermath of large-scale power outages Connecticut suffered during massive storms in 2011 and 2012. Betkoski has said that he expects PURA to issue a ruling in the case sometime in early April.

But Betkoski said on Thursday that he and House hope to visit some of the areas where the tree trimming has already been done. Some of the tree trimming UI is doing in the New Haven area is currently being done in Cheshire, where some residents have complained that CL&P’s tree trimming contractors have done a poor job.

House noted that rendering a decision in this case will be challenging. He called complaints by Hamden residents about UI’s tree trimming plan “quite ardent” but added that PURA has also been contacted by public officials in some communities that don’t want to see any reductions in the tree-trimming plans the utilities have proposed.

“We have to find a balance, and it has to be a delicate one,” House said.

CL&P in 2014 makes their demands on every single person near a power line...follow their protocol or...
Task force recommendation: more municipal care for trees

Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
August 20, 2012

In the year since Tropical Storm Irene battered the state, Connecticut's trees have come to be regarded as instruments of evil. They've been blamed for the extensive power outages caused by both Irene and the October snowstorm two months later, and utility companies have since been sawing away at the roadside forest around their transmission lines.

But the results from yet another post-storm task force may shift those duties. Municipal responsibility for trees is at the heart of recommendations by the State Vegetation Management Task Force, whose mandate from the governor's Two Storm Panel was to look at the state's roadside tree care.

The report, expected to be finalized to coincide with the first year anniversary of Irene on Aug. 28, concludes that trees and other large vegetation along Connecticut roads have been generally ignored over years, if not decades. That means there are a lot of them and they're old -- which makes them potentially more hazardous.

Panel members are united behind the concept of tree management -- not just cutting down problem trees, which is typically the extent of what municipalities do now. Rather, they endorse genuine and holistic care for trees in the form of a five-year plan that includes replanting them strategically. It's a concept known as "right tree, right place."

This all costs money, and the task force recommends that the state put up $100,000 a year per community for two years -- that's $16.9 million a year -- to start the planning and maintenance processes. It calls on additional resources from cities and towns for trees

"I realize this is a difficult time to make that argument," said Eric Hammerling, executive director of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association and task force chairman. "If we don't invest at the municipal level in tree management, we're going to insure we have just as much, if not more, damage in future storms."

Statewide, Hammerling said, cities and towns spend about $10.5 million annually on tree work. Nearly two-thirds spend less than $3 per capita on tree care, and half of those spend less than $1. By contrast, the utility's tree budget was criticized for being only about $30 million a year. It's expected to increase to about $50 million, but panel members were adamant that municipalities and the state contribute.

"If we don't have additional resources at the municipal level, at the state level," Hammerling said, "then none of the recommendations of the task force are going to be implemented or successful."

Dave Goodson, a task force member and arborist who oversees vegetation management for Northeast Utilities, Connecticut Light & Power's parent company, said a big surprise was to see how little tree work cities and towns do.

"It was an eye-opener," he said. "Clearly we Nutmeggers love our trees, but we can't overlook the maintenance of those trees anymore than we'd overlook the maintenance of any built infrastructure."

Enter folks like Bruce Lindsay, who, on a recent hot morning, was trudging through the admittedly overgrown nursery maintained in Milford by the all-volunteer, nonprofit Milford Trees, which he heads. Increasingly it's falling to groups like Milford Trees to fill a void municipalities can't -- or won't.

"I think you would see less than six trees planted a year if it weren't for our group," he said. Lindsay is a horticulturist and licensed arborist with his own landscape design company.

In the dozen years Milford Trees has been around, it's planted about 60 trees a year through donations, contributions and a scant $600 a year from the Milford Tree Commission. Milford Trees is also exploring a regional relationship with West Haven and Orange to pool resources to inventory trees.

While Lindsay said his group has a good rapport with Mayor Ben Blake, he feels there is some friction with the town's department of public works.

"My job is to make sure everybody is rowing in the same direction," said Blake, while not directly addressing the tension.

Lindsay said he felt Milford Trees was making the department's job easier. "We're trying to offer tree planting and replacement," he said. "We're not a bunch of lunatics and tree-hugging hippies."

"We're not just running around like Johnny Appleseed. We're not planting white pines in an intersection where there's line-of-sight issues or traffic light concerns or crosswalk concerns."

Folks who have been running similar programs say winning respect and engaging the public are keys to making a nonprofit/government volunteer tree operation work, although there are barely a handful in Connecticut.

"People are really willing and happy to be part of managing the resources right outside their front door," said Colleen Murphy-Dunning, director of the Urban Resources Initiative in New Haven, a nonprofit group affiliated with Yale University.

Since 1991, URI has used about 1,000 volunteers a year to plant, maintain, inventory and map trees in New Haven. Its work dovetails with a job-training program run by Yale graduate students for high school students and at-risk adults, such as ex-offenders.

"It took time for us to get where we are now," Murphy-Dunning said. "In the early years we had to get permission for every single tree we planted. This is the address. This is the species we want. We built a really strong relationship and trust."

Christy Hass, New Haven's tree warden and deputy director of the parks department, said URI provides a service that otherwise might not get done. "This is the ideal situation," she said. "It has a 98 percent success rate, because they are involved with the neighborhood."

In Hartford, the nonprofit Knox Parks has done tree planting and minor maintenance since the mid-1970s, placing some 3,500 trees, not including a 1,000-tree effort under way this year. It's an uphill battle with 300 trees lost a year routinely and about 3,000 in last year's October snowstorm alone.

As in New Haven, Knox uses volunteers combined with job training. It's a paradigm Heather Dionne, the new city forester -- the first one in years -- is hoping to use to inventory the city's estimated half-million trees.

Ron Pitz, the Knox's executive director, said he thinks there would be a little tree planting and care in Hartford even without his organization. "But I don't think there would be a comprehensive planting plan in place," he said.

Work has been so neglected, Pitz said, that Knox volunteers are digging out tree stumps that have been there for 30 years. "It is working; we're getting things done," he said. "It's not the easiest way to do things, but it's the only way as far as we're concerned."

But he and others cautioned against relying solely on volunteers. "I also think that cities, as cash-strapped as they are, are going to have to have the vision and the courage to back some of these efforts with some funding."

Task force member Chris Donnelly, urban forestry coordinator with the Division of Forestry at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said volunteers would not be able to handle everything.

"A major reason why we're having this whole conversation has to do with tree maintenance," he said. "So on the one hand, yes, there is a lot of opportunity for volunteer involvement, but it does not mean there are not going to be expensive parts of the job that still need to be done."

Another key recommendation from the task force calls for more stringent qualifications for tree wardens. While every city and town is required to have one, there is no requirement that they actually know anything about trees.

The Tree Wardens Association of Connecticut offers certifications, but only about half the wardens in the state have them. The task force calls for required certifications and better standards governing them.

The association's president, James Govoni, tree warden in Windsor and a member of the task force, is on board with that. But he worries that volunteer tree planting will increase a community's liability and re-create the "same headache" with trees under power lines.

"How can you tell me to manage a tree when you keep planting them in the wrong place?" he asked. "And I keep having to cut them back, and you get mad at me?"

Regulators: CL&P Storm Response 'Deficient and Inadequate'
Financial Penalties Still Undecided
The Hartford Courant
By BRIAN DOWLING bdowling@courant.com
8:27 PM EDT, July 17, 2012

Regulators said Tuesday that Connecticut Light & Power's response to two major 2011 storms was "deficient and inadequate" and that it will dock how much of the storms' costs the utility will be able to recoup by charging customers.

The statement by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority was contained in a draft decision issued late Tuesday. It did not say how much CL&P would be docked, a question that could be worth tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars to CL&P's 1.2 million customers.

PURA cited deficiencies in the utility's "service restoration, preparation of personnel, support of its municipal liaison program, development and communication of restoration times to customers, and overall communication to customers, other service providers and municipalities."

The decision said that its view of the recovery will be taken into account when CL&P puts in a request with the regulators to recover storm costs or make its next ratepayer increase. The utility's parent company, Northeast Utilities, has said would not happen until 2014 at the soonest and that the total cleanup costs for the two storms was $260 million.

In addition to a promise of sanctions, regulators are requiring CL&P to maintain and document "a heightened state of readiness" during major storms that includes a close assessment of the company's workers, outside contractors and resources available for storm response.

CL&P would not comment on the regulators' claims about the utility's response, but spokesman Mitch Gross said that the company is reviewing the decision to decide whether it "will file written exceptions or participate in oral arguments in front of the Commissioners before they issue their final decision on August 1."

There were 815,000 power outages caused by Tropical Storm Irene, which hit Aug. 28, and 832,000 outages caused by the Oct. 29 snowstorm. Many households in each storm were without power for more than a week. Residential customers who were out that long in the second storm were reimbursed by $122 by CL&P on their February bills.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy, responding to the draft decision in a written statement, called the utility's storm response "unacceptable," and added that PURA's decision echoes "the earlier findings of the "Two Storm" panel, the Witt report, and hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents who experienced extended power outages after each storm.

"It is clear that Northeast Utilities did not prepare for outages of this magnitude and did not build adequate capacity to respond," Malloy said.

In the wake of the two storms, regulators and legislators studied the CL&P's efforts. All interested parties — the utilities, regulators, towns and others — filed briefs and responses arguing their case since September 2011.

Attorney General George Jepsen, whose office filed numerous briefs in the case, said PURA's decision has "given CL&P strong incentives to improve its performance to ensure a greater level of storm preparedness in the future."

"Today's draft decision clearly echoes our case in this proceeding and would assess meaningful penalties on Connecticut Light & Power for the company's deficient response to Tropical Storm Irene and the October Nor'easter," said Jepsen.

In June, Jepsen called the utility's storm response "imprudent," saying that the company should be docked 30 percent to 50 percent of the storms' costs. That would be a hit of $78 to $130 million hit.

CL&P said previously it would not seek repayment for $40 million of the storm's cost — about 15 percent of the estimated $260 million in costs. The utility has maintained that aspects of its response were "deficient," though not "the result of imprudent conduct."

When determining the amount that CL&P will be able to recoup from ratepayers at its next ratemaking proceeding, regulators will also consider how the utility has taken steps to restructure its planning for storm response. That could include CL&P's recent emergency preparedness summit with town managers or its approved resiliency plan that would spend $300 million over 5 years to prepare for future storms.

CL&P fights Conn. official over storm costs
STEPHEN SINGER, AP Business Writer
Updated 10:02 a.m., Tuesday, June 19, 2012

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut Light & Power struck back Monday at Attorney General George Jepsen, who asked state regulators to punish the state's largest utility for its response to two storms last year.

In a filing with the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, the Northeast Utilities subsidiary said Jepsen failed to prove the utility fell short of clearly understood industry standards in restoring power.

CL&P also said Jepsen has not connected what he criticized as the utility's failure to more quickly restore power and certain storm restoration costs.

"The company does not claim, and it has never claimed, that its restoration efforts were perfect," CL&P said. "But perfection is not the legal standard for evaluating the company's performance."

Jepsen asked regulators last week to reject up to half of recovery costs of last year's tropical storm and autumn snowfall and impose penalties. He said CL&P mismanaged its storm response.

Jaclyn Falkowski, a spokeswoman for Jepsen, responded to CL&P's response by reiterating that regulators should "assess meaningful penalties" against CL&P.

Hundreds of thousands of businesses and residents were left without power for as long as 11 days following an Oct. 29 snowstorm. CL&P was subjected to widespread criticism from state and municipal officials who said delays in restoring service were unacceptable.

The storm followed by two months the remnants of Hurricane Irene, which became a tropical storm before hitting Connecticut, also knocking out power to thousands of residents and businesses.

Jepsen called on the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to reject as much as 30 percent to 50 percent of CL&P's 2011 storm restoration and recovery costs of $290 million. An alternative could be a reduction by regulators of CL&P's profit earned by shareholders, he said.

CL&P said several consultants found that its performance was consistent with industry norms. It cited a study commissioned by Witt Associates, which was hired by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

CL&P quoted Jepsen saying in November 2011, shortly after the freak autumn snowstorm, that lawyers in his office would work with Witt Associates to assess the information.

"The AG now appears to be distancing itself from Witt because the AG has reached conclusions that contradict Witt's expert findings about CL&P's overall restoration performance," the utility said.

The utilities' response to the two storms has been the subject of reviews. The Connecticut legislature, following an examination by a commission appointed by Malloy, established minimum performance standards for emergency preparation and response for electric and gas companies.

CL&P said it is aware of "numerous opportunities for improvement" and has already made "meaningful changes" and will continue to do so.

Downed trees blamed for most outages in Oct. storm

Associated Press
Article published May 31, 2012;  updated 05/31/2012 12:58 PM

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Downed trees rather than transmission system problems were largely to blame for widespread power outages during a freak October snowstorm in the Northeast last year, a report by federal regulators and a utility group said Thursday.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and North American Electric Reliability Corp. also said inaccurate weather forecasts led utilities to initially rely on their own crews rather than call for mutual aid, delaying repair work.

The report said that in the Pennsylvania-to-Maine region, 74 transmission lines and 44 transmission substations experienced outages. Those problems caused less than 5 percent of customer outages at the peak of the Oct. 29-30 storm, which left more than 3.2 million homes and businesses without power.

The report said nearly three-quarters of the transmission line outages occurred when trees fell onto power lines, and that many of the trees are beyond utilities' rights-of-way.

Precise measures of the total physical damage to the electrical distribution systems are hard to determine, the report said. But it estimated that 50,000 locations across the Northeast required utility crews to remove trees or repair distribution lines.

The report did not address communications problems between utilities and municipalities. Jette Gebhart, a lawyer at the federal agency, told reporters on a conference call that the report focused on issues related to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's jurisdiction and the utility group's reliability standards.

The report also said emergency preparation and response are "almost entirely outside" the regulators' jurisdiction.

Still, it said a review of the impact of utility preparation and response on restoring power "found no indication that inadequate preparation materially hindered restoration of transmission facilities" that are larger and operating at a distance from trees.

The report instead said the problem was primarily with distribution lines, which operate in residential and commercial neighborhoods and were brought down by trees and branches.

The report recommends more tree-cutting and increasing the reporting of outages caused by vegetation.

But the report said standards for inspecting and clearing vegetation required by federal law following the Aug. 14, 2003, blackout in the Northeast and Canada are limited, applying to high-power transmission lines and lower-voltage lines identified as critical to power reliability.

The report said many utilities did not request mutual assistance on the morning of Oct. 29 before the heaviest snow began falling due to a "general understanding" that utilities would be using their own crews, it said.

"However, snowfall amounts exceeded forecasts, and by Saturday afternoon, utilities began to see that more manpower would be required to address the rapidly increasing outages," it said.

Many utilities then began requesting mutual assistance, but "because the storm was so widespread — and demand was so great — there were few regional crews immediately available," regulators and the utility group said.

But restoration of transmission lines was "not materially hampered by inadequate utility preparation or response," it said. More staffing or field crew in advance of the heaviest snowfall would not have significantly improved restoring transmission systems, the report said.

It said there is room for improvement in storm preparedness.

Good ship "Land of Steady Habits"

Connecticut won’t prosecute workers in D-SNAP food stamp fraud case
By Michelle Tuccitto Sullo, New Haven Register
Posted: 08/21/14, 6:12 PM EDT | Updated: 3 hrs ago

The Office of the Chief State’s Attorney has decided against pursuing criminal charges against any state employees or private citizens who received D-SNAP benefits they weren’t entitled to following Tropical Storm Irene in 2011...story in full here.

Food Stamp Fraud Issue Escalates
The Hartford Courant
By CHRISTOPHER KEATING, ckeating@courant.com
10:27 PM EDT, May 24, 2012

An attorney representing state employees said Thursday that he believes more than 150 state employees have been fired for alleged food stamp fraud.

Rich Rochlin — who said he represents 60 state employees fired or under investigation in the scandal surrounding Connecticut's administration of the federal Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or D-SNAP — declared that the number of employees terminated far exceeds the 27 that Gov.Dannel P. Malloy's administration has announced so far.

A Malloy spokesman Thursday night said he couldn't confirm or deny Rochlin's estimate but promised an update soon. Regardless of the exact number, it was clear that the situation is escalating. Thursday brought two significant developments:

• Fired state workers met in Hartford with NAACP leaders and state Sen. Eric Coleman in Hartford. State NAACP President Scot X. Esdaile said his organization is investigating the matter, noting that the vast majority of the fired workers are members of racial minorities. Many are single mothers, Rochlin said. Esdaile said he will bring the matter to the national NAACP's board. A crowd of about 70, many of them fired state workers, gave him a standing ovation.

•The state Department of Social Services said that it also has referred the cases of 171 non-state-employee D-SNAP recipients to the Office of the Chief State's Attorney for investigation and possible prosecution.

Those 171 people "received D-SNAP benefits after Tropical Storm Irene in September 2011, but were found ineligible in a sample of reviews by DSS investigators and a contracted audit firm," DSS spokesman David Dearborn said in an email, adding: "The individuals' ineligibility was deemed to result from fraudulent provision of income and/or liquid asset information on their signed DSNAP applications."

The Malloy administration has not updated the numbers of fired state workers since mid-March, when the governor said the scandal had led to 27 firings, 10 retirements and five resignations. All 42 employees who have left state service are potentially subject to criminal sanctions, but no arrests have been announced.

The employees were fired because the Malloy administration says they falsified their financial information when applying for emergency food stamp benefits D-SNAP. The program began following Tropical Storm Irene, which ravaged the state and knocked out electrical power to thousands in late August.

In a statement Thursday night, Andrew McDonald, Malloy's chief counsel, said: "We are confident this investigation was conducted fairly. It was conducted in accordance with the law. It was conducted in close coordination with prosecutors. If anyone challenges the integrity of this investigation in court, we look forward to seeing their evidence as opposed to listening to their rhetoric, and we are prepared to demonstrate they're flat out wrong."

McDonald's statement continued: "The Governor has made it clear over and over again that public service is a privilege, and any abuse of that privilege will not be tolerated.

The emergency money was designed not only to replace lost food, but also to cover storm-related expenses like property repairs and temporary housing costs such as hotels. Actual food stamps are no longer issued, and recipients instead received debit cards with a specified amount of money allocated to the account.

After saying for months that about 800 state employees were involved, Malloy announced in March that an additional 250 state employees had filled out applications for benefits. As such, an overall total of 1,053 state employees actually sought to receive emergency benefits.

Of more than 1,000 state employees involved, 685 have been cleared of any wrongdoing, according to a previous count by the Malloy administration.

The vast majority of state employees who applied "were honest" about their incomes and liquid assets in bank accounts, Malloy said.

Larry Dorman, spokesman for union Council 4 of theAmerican Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said on Thursday night: "We've said from the start that any worker, public or private sector, who knowingly defrauded the D-SNAP program should be held accountable as a matter of public trust. At the same time, in this country, people are innocent until proven guilty. State employees who have been investigated and punished are entitled to due process rights guaranteed by collective bargaining. For those members who believe they have been wrongly accused, we are pursuing the grievance process to assure that the rights of individuals are respected."

Rochlin said that some of his clients, some who have lost their jobs and others facing unemployment, are considering filing for bankruptcy. Overall, he has multiple clients facing disciplinary action in the probe. One of those suspended without pay for 20 pays was Lisa Prout, a state employee who went public with her complaints shortly after Christmas. Prout has filed a lawsuit against the state, which is still pending.

Last Year's Storms: No Tempest in a Teapot
From State Representative Wilton-Norwalk (143rd), 7 May 2012

Last fall’s monumental storms affected almost everyone in Connecticut. People were inconvenienced, impatient, and angry. The ill, elderly, and disabled were exposed to significant risks. We were shocked at how long it took to restore service, and how hard it was to get answers. First responders and town organizations rose to the occasion, but they were stretched to their limits. Schools were closed for days on end. The situation got old very fast. No one wanted to go through the same thing again, ever.

Not surprisingly, there was an initial clamor for action. Several of us called for public hearings, and there were many, at both the state and municipal levels. State agencies, public utilities, and the governor commissioned or conducted studies. Reports were released. Legislation was drafted early in the 2012 session. And then – nothing happened. The subject disappeared from the radar screen as other issues like Sunday sales, medical marijuana, the death penalty, and election-day voter registration took center stage. Had the storms and their aftermath become just a tempest in a teapot?

Fortunately, there is good news to report. The Energy and Technology Committee used the time to produce a bipartisan bill that addresses most of the issues raised by the various hearings and studies. While frustration has mounted over the General Assembly’s lack of progress in the critical areas of education reform and the budget, SB 23 establishes a comprehensive framework for improvement and has been well received by both sides of the political aisle.

Interestingly, while Connecticut has long been required by law to have a civil preparedness plan, it has not included utilities. The bill integrates them into the plan for the first time. Among the bill’s provisions:

While most of the bill’s provisions entail reporting as opposed to immediate action, they assign clear roles and responsibilities, and most initial reporting deadlines fall within the coming year. If there is a need for additional legislation, it should be clear by the start of the 2013 session. There is a precise roadmap, complete with timing, for improving the state’s emergency preparedness and response.

Many questions arose last year about creating municipal utilities, because towns with their own electric utilities suffered much less than others after the storms. Another bill, HB 5543, requires PURA to identify procedures and legislative changes necessary for towns interested in creating or expanding municipal utilities.

Storm Response Bill Clears Senate, Includes Utility Penalties
by Christine Stuart | May 5, 2012 6:05pm

The state Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation Saturday which will help improve state and utility company response to widespread power outages created by natural disasters.

Lawmakers were prompted to draft legislation after 1 million Connecticut customers lost power during Tropical Storm Irene, and soon after that another 1.4 million customers were without electricity during the freak October snowstorm.

Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, said the two storms “crippled our state” and this bill goes a long way toward preparing for future storm events.

The bill allows the Public Utility Regulatory Authority to open a docket to make sure the utilities are properly staffed, have adequate mutual aid agreements, and are meeting restoration targets.

A report by an independent agency brought to the state by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy following the October snowstorm found that Connecticut Light & Power prepared for a storm where only 100,000 customers would be without power. The dramatic underestimation lead to several other problems, including a delayed response from out-of-state contractors who were only called when the storm was just hours away from hitting the state.

In addition to opening up a docket, the bill also creates penalties for utilities unable to comply with emergency storm restoration. If utilities fail to meet reasonable standards the state can apply civil penalties not to exceed 2.5 percent of a utility company’s annual distribution of revenue.

The bill also requires enhanced tree trimming efforts to be undertaken by the utilities, establishes a pilot micro-grid program, and a study of the impact of potentially requiring backup power systems for telecommunication towers and antennas. It also calls for a statewide drill of all emergency responders and the utilities.

In addition, it asks the regulatory authority to initiate a docket to study the feasibility of establishing a program to reimburse residential customers for food spoilage and medication lost during power outages.

Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen, who lost cellphone service following the October snowstorm, said he was glad to see the state was beginning to look into the issue of requiring backup electricity generation at cellphone towers. The issue first arose after Tropical Storm Irene and repeated itself during the October storm. He pointed out that cellphones have become the main source of communication for many households where people have pulled the plug on their land lines.

“It’s a matter of life or death,” he said.

Roraback said he doesn’t understand why cellphone companies wouldn’t want to install backup generation when erecting a tower. “The incremental added cost of backup power shouldn’ t be cost prohibitive when weighing the circumstances of emergency power,” Roraback said.

He admitted that asking about whether the cellphone carrier had backup generation on their towers was never a consideration he made when purchasing his cellphone contract.

The legislation requires the telecommunication companies to disclose the information about where they have or lack backup generation, but exempts it from the state’ s Freedom of Information laws.

Sen. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, supported the legislation, but wished it included language which would allow municipal responders to get roads cleared quicker.

But overall “it’s not a baby step, it’ s a big huge step in the right direction,” he said.

Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, agreed even though he wasn’t fond of the “food spoilage” docket.

“I think the last section with respect to a docket for food spoilage is unrealistic,” McKinney said. But “That section alone isn’ t a danger to a very good bill in my mind.”

Coming to Weston: CL&P launches expanded tree-trimming program
Written by Mitch Gross (CL&P) and Kimberly Donnelly
Friday, 16 March 2012 00:00

As part of a plan to increase reliability and reduce future power outages, Connecticut Light & Power has launched an expanded tree work program that includes what the company describes as "significantly more routine and enhanced tree trimming across the state in 2012."

This year, CL&P plans to spend $53.5 million on tree trimming — an increase of approximately $27 million than in 2011.

The expanded tree work will be performed along 4,900 miles of the company's utility poles and wires, an increase of 1,600 miles.

The additional tree work includes:

• 1,100 additional miles of routine tree trimming, and,

• 500 additional miles of enhanced tree trimming and tree removal.

In Weston

Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said she, Town Administrator Tom Landry, the highway director and the director of emergency management met with CL&P officials last week about the tree trimming in Weston.

In addition to its regular tree-cutting schedule, the utility company has said it will conduct its enhanced tree trimming in two sections of town per year, beginning this year in the lower end of Weston, in the Kettle Creek and Lyons Plain areas.

Ms. Weinstein said CL&P says it is moving from a six-year cycle of trimming (completing tree work in all areas of town every six years) to a five-year cycle.

"I'd like to see a three-year cycle, but I'm pleased they are undertaking a more aggressive process," the first selectman said.

Annually, CL&P conducts routine and enhanced tree trimming on its 17,000 miles of infrastructure.


During two storms last year, hundreds of thousands of power company customers were blacked out for days because of trees and limbs that took down lines. During the outcry after the storms, the CL&P president resigned, and the new administration promised to "harden" the power distribution system by, among other things, removing trees that threaten the lines.

"Expanded tree work is a critical part of our plan to reduce the vulnerability of our distribution system to outages," said Bill Quinlan, CL&P's vice president of emergency preparedness. "Significantly increasing our tree-trimming program is one way we're demonstrating that commitment to our customers. We'll be working closely with our municipal partners to coordinate our efforts."

Property owners are being notified by mail and are asked to respond within 15 days before routine work begins.

Specifications for enhanced tree trimming include an eight-foot clearance zone from either side of the utility poles and wires, from the ground up, including:

• All overhanging limbs;

• Tall brush and small trees within the clearance zone;

• Dead or diseased trees with the potential to cause outages.

Consent forms and details about enhanced tree trimming will be delivered to each property owner in advance of any work performed. Property owner consent is required in writing.
Contractor agreements

CL&P has begun hiring approximately 100 additional contractor tree crews to perform the expanded tree work, which is expected to continue through December 2012.

• Contractors will notify and work directly with property owners on behalf of CL&P;

• Contractor vehicles will display CL&P signage;

• CL&P will coordinate and oversee all contractors performing tree work;

• Debris generated from the work will be removed;

• Property owners may have wood chips or cut wood at no cost.

For enhanced tree work, the contractors will typically leave detailed information with the property owner and then return to discuss the work with them. The two primary contractors doing the work will be Asplundh Tree Expert Co. and Lewis Tree Service Inc.
Public education

Outreach to CL&P customers will focus on the shared responsibility of tree maintenance to ensure electric reliability; planting appropriate trees near utility poles and wires; and the importance of being prepared before storms.

For more information on planting the right tree in the right place, or a comprehensive list of trees that are compatible with utility lines, visit the publications section of cl-p.com.

Customers with general questions about the expanded tree work program may call CL&P's customer service center at 800-286-2000.

In the new "Short Session" the Governor's bill on these emergency subjects was filed and sent to Energy & Technology: includes microgrid proposal for communities with more than 40,000 persons.


2011 storms' Irene story



State school board looks at decades-old integration law
Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT MIRROR
November 7, 2011

Some 340 children attend Verplanck Elementary School in Manchester, but the town Board of Education this school year found itself facing difficult decisions because Verplanck was just two students out of compliance with the state's racial imbalance law.

"It doesn't seem like such a problem. Am I not understanding something?" State Board of Education Member Ellen Camhi said reacting to a presentation at a recent meeting on Manchester's inability to resolve years of non-compliance with the law.

Each year the State Department of Education informs several districts that they are violating the law by having schools with demographics far less diverse than their district. This year six districts were cited: Fairfield, Greenwich, Groton, Manchester, Enfield and Bristol. Just a handful of students put most of these districts out of compliance, and obliged them to come up with integration plans.

This reality, and appeals from local school leaders, has led members of the State Board of Education to begin to reconsider the decades-old law.

"I'm not sure the implementation of the law still matches up with the spirit of the law," said Ferdinand L. Risco, Jr., a member of the SBE and of New Haven's school board. "We should move to change that law so it fits 2011 and not 1969."

Connecticut lawmakers passed its racial imbalance law during a time of civil unrest. Martin Luther King had just been assassinated the previous year and people were rioting in cities across the country.

To achieve integration, the law requires districts to report their student demographics for each school. If any school has 25 percent more minorities than the district average, the community must submit a plan to address the imbalance within 60 days.

"We are seeing these reports more and more frequently," Theresa Hopkins-Staten, the chairwoman of the SBE Legislative and Bylaws Committee, when announcing they would be looking at making some recommendations to revise the law. "We understand the spirit of the law, but what is the impact of the law?"

The impact, some board members say, is that many school districts' response is to simply close down the school cited for being imbalanced. Local boards complain that the rapid growth of minority communities in some towns makes it nearly impossible to stay in compliance.

"Its a moving target. We are changing very rapidly," Kathleen Ouelette, the former superintendent of schools in Manchester who now heads the Waterbury system, told the board last month. "It seems every time we get back into compliance we have to change that plan" the following year for being imbalanced again.

Allan B. Taylor, chairman of the SBE, said because the law was written at a time when demographics were relatively stable, a district's integration plan would "hold for a while. That is no longer the case. It's not clear the law is working for what's going on now."

And the solutions to integrate the schools are often costly. In Manchester, they approved a costly preschool program at three schools in an attempt to attract more white students.

"We have struggled with this because of financial reasons," Ouelette said, after her school board at first unanimously rejected the plan. They quickly changed their mind after the SBE warned them of the ramifications of not having a plan months after they were told to create one.

Districts that show no progress in integrating schools or fail to have a plan are subject to losing their state funding.

Urban districts are exempt from the law because their populations are overwhelmingly made up of ethnic minorities. Taylor said regional integration requirements would be politically very difficult to pass.

"I don't know if there is a solution for that," he said. "This law is was written to deal with imbalance in districts. Fixing it regionally, well that's a much bigger question that I am not sure will be able to be achieved."

Any recommended changes would ultimately need to be approved by the General Assembly and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Rep. Andy Fleischmann, D-West Harford and house chairman of the Education Committee, said he is open to considering changes, but the goal of integrating schools must remain.

"It's important that towns have racial diversity in their schools," he said. "The General Assembly hasn't reconsidered this law in a long time. I am open to considering change, but it's going to be a tough knot to untie."


Here Comes the Sun
November 6, 2011

For decades the story of technology has been dominated, in the popular mind and to a large extent in reality, by computing and the things you can do with it. Moore’s Law — in which the price of computing power falls roughly 50 percent every 18 months — has powered an ever-expanding range of applications, from faxes to Facebook.

Our mastery of the material world, on the other hand, has advanced much more slowly. The sources of energy, the way we move stuff around, are much the same as they were a generation ago.

But that may be about to change. We are, or at least we should be, on the cusp of an energy transformation, driven by the rapidly falling cost of solar power. That’s right, solar power.

If that surprises you, if you still think of solar power as some kind of hippie fantasy, blame our fossilized political system, in which fossil fuel producers have both powerful political allies and a powerful propaganda machine that denigrates alternatives.

Speaking of propaganda: Before I get to solar, let’s talk briefly about hydraulic fracturing, a k a fracking.

Fracking — injecting high-pressure fluid into rocks deep underground, inducing the release of fossil fuels — is an impressive technology. But it’s also a technology that imposes large costs on the public. We know that it produces toxic (and radioactive) wastewater that contaminates drinking water; there is reason to suspect, despite industry denials, that it also contaminates groundwater; and the heavy trucking required for fracking inflicts major damage on roads.

Economics 101 tells us that an industry imposing large costs on third parties should be required to “internalize” those costs — that is, to pay for the damage it inflicts, treating that damage as a cost of production. Fracking might still be worth doing given those costs. But no industry should be held harmless from its impacts on the environment and the nation’s infrastructure.

Yet what the industry and its defenders demand is, of course, precisely that it be let off the hook for the damage it causes. Why? Because we need that energy! For example, the industry-backed organization energyfromshale.org declares that “there are only two sides in the debate: those who want our oil and natural resources developed in a safe and responsible way; and those who don’t want our oil and natural gas resources developed at all.”

So it’s worth pointing out that special treatment for fracking makes a mockery of free-market principles. Pro-fracking politicians claim to be against subsidies, yet letting an industry impose costs without paying compensation is in effect a huge subsidy. They say they oppose having the government “pick winners,” yet they demand special treatment for this industry precisely because they claim it will be a winner.

And now for something completely different: the success story you haven’t heard about.

These days, mention solar power and you’ll probably hear cries of “Solyndra!” Republicans have tried to make the failed solar panel company both a symbol of government waste — although claims of a major scandal are nonsense — and a stick with which to beat renewable energy.

But Solyndra’s failure was actually caused by technological success: the price of solar panels is dropping fast, and Solyndra couldn’t keep up with the competition. In fact, progress in solar panels has been so dramatic and sustained that, as a blog post at Scientific American put it, “there’s now frequent talk of a ‘Moore’s law’ in solar energy,” with prices adjusted for inflation falling around 7 percent a year.

This has already led to rapid growth in solar installations, but even more change may be just around the corner. If the downward trend continues — and if anything it seems to be accelerating — we’re just a few years from the point at which electricity from solar panels becomes cheaper than electricity generated by burning coal.

And if we priced coal-fired power right, taking into account the huge health and other costs it imposes, it’s likely that we would already have passed that tipping point.

But will our political system delay the energy transformation now within reach?

Let’s face it: a large part of our political class, including essentially the entire G.O.P., is deeply invested in an energy sector dominated by fossil fuels, and actively hostile to alternatives. This political class will do everything it can to ensure subsidies for the extraction and use of fossil fuels, directly with taxpayers’ money and indirectly by letting the industry off the hook for environmental costs, while ridiculing technologies like solar.

So what you need to know is that nothing you hear from these people is true. Fracking is not a dream come true; solar is now cost-effective. Here comes the sun, if we’re willing to let it in.


The Politics of Austerity
November 5, 2011, 4:04 pm

The economic collapse of 2008 transformed American politics. In place of shared abundance, battles at every level of government now focus on picking the losers who will bear the costs of deficit reduction and austerity.

Fights in Washington are over inflicting pain on antagonists either through spending cuts or tax increases, a struggle over who will get a smaller piece of a shrinking pie. This hostile climate stands in sharp contrast to the post-World-War II history of economic growth. Worse, current income and employment trends suggest that this is not a temporary shift.

The year 2008 marked the emergence of a Democratic Party driven by surging constituencies of minorities, single women and voters under 30. The flowering of this coalition, manifested in the election of President Obama and in continued Democratic control of Congress, was quickly followed by developments affirming the activist, redistributive state: the enactment of a $787 billion economic stimulus bill, passage of the $900 billion health care reform act and rising demand for food stamps, unemployment compensation and Medicaid.

From the vantage point of Republicans, the newly empowered Democratic Party was determined to institutionalize government expansion through oversight of the financial sector, broadening access to medical care and federally mandated environmental regulation. As the national debt grew from $10.6 trillion when Obama took office to $13.7 trillion on Election Day 2010, the stage was set for a conservative revival. Conservatives successfully shifted the focus of American politics to the twin themes of debt and austerity — with a specific attack on means-tested entitlement programs.

The Republican Party, after winning back control of the House in 2010, has reverted to the penny-pinching of an earlier era, the green eyeshade Grand Old Party of Herbert Hoover and Robert Taft, advocating a “root canal” approach to governance evident in the first budget passed by the Republican-controlled House — the Paul Ryan “path to prosperity” budget with $4 trillion in cuts — and the subsequent Aug. 2 debt ceiling agreement.

The new embattled partisan environment allows conservatives to pit taxpayers against tax consumers, those dependent on safety-net programs against those who see such programs as eating away at their personal income and assets.

In a nuanced study, “The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism,” the sociologist and political scientist Theda Skocpol and her colleagues at Harvard found that opposition to government spending was concentrated on resentment of federal government “handouts.” Tea Party activists, they wrote, “define themselves as workers, in opposition to categories of nonworkers they perceive as undeserving of government assistance.”

In a March 15 declaration calling for defunding of most social programs, the New Boston Tea Party was blunt: “The locusts are eating, or should we say devouring, the productive output of the hard working taxpayer.”

The conservative agenda, in a climate of scarcity, racializes policy making, calling for deep cuts in programs for the poor. The beneficiaries of these programs are disproportionately black and Hispanic. In 2009, according to census data, 50.9 percent of black households, 53.3 percent of Hispanic households and 20.5 percent of white households received some form of means-tested government assistance, including food stamps, Medicaid and public housing.

Less obviously, but just as racially charged, is the assault on public employees. “We can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots,” declared Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin.

For black Americans, government employment is a crucial means of upward mobility. The federal work force is 18.6 percent African-American, compared with 10.9 percent in the private sector. The percentages of African-Americans are highest in just those agencies that are most actively targeted for cuts by Republicans: the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 38.3 percent; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 42.4 percent; and the Education Department, 36.6 percent.

The politics of austerity are inherently favorable to conservatives and inhospitable to liberals. Congressional trench warfare rewards those most willing to risk all. Republicans demonstrated this in last summer’s debt ceiling fight, deploying the threat of a default on Treasury obligations to force spending cuts.

Conservatives are more willing to inflict harm on adversaries and more readily see conflicts in zero-sum terms — the basic framework of the contemporary debate. Once austerity dominates the agenda, the only question is where the ax falls.

Still, conservatives have a tendency to overestimate public support for their agenda and consequently to overreach: recall the two government shutdowns of 1995 and 1996; the 1998 Clinton impeachment; and the Ryan budget, which gave Democrats a recent victory in upstate New York.

Most signs point toward a relentless continuation of struggle in the context of austerity. Congress faces self-imposed deadlines of Nov. 23 and Dec. 23 to approve a deficit reduction of $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion over 10 years, or accept across-the-board cuts of $1.2 trillion.

Democratic strategists privately worry that many voters see reduced spending as a threshold issue that candidates must meet. “Our message — ‘We want fewer budget cuts, more taxes’ — is all that voters are getting right now,” said one strategist involved in presidential and Congressional campaigns. “It doesn’t sell.”

Republicans are playing with fire, though, when they threaten American standing in the world, as they did in provoking Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the United States’ credit rating to AA+ from AAA in August. Confidence in Congressional Republicans fell 36 points after the debt ceiling debacle, compared with a 22-point drop for Mr. Obama.

While the outcome of the election exactly one year from today remains uncertain, the prospects for economic growth, with prosperity reaching beyond corporations and Wall Street to the electorate at large, are dim. The two main sources of new jobs, government and health services, face substantial fiscal constraints. Technology continues to make skilled jobs “tradable,” that is, exportable to lower-wage countries, and corporations are making productivity gains through automation, not new hiring.

In many respects, austerity feeds on itself. If the country needs to invest in education and rebuilding infrastructure to regain competitiveness, as many economists of varying ideological stripes argue, those initiatives are in large part precluded in a political environment that places top priority on deficit and debt reduction. Retrenchment, in effect, becomes a noose, choking off prospects for growth.


Sad Proof of Europe’s Fallout

November 5, 2011

WHO are you going to believe — me, or your own lying eyes?

That old line from the Marx Brothers came to mind last week as MF Global, the brokerage firm run by Jon S. Corzine, was felled by over-the-top leverage and bad derivative bets on debt-weakened European countries.

Suddenly, all of those claims that American financial institutions have little to no exposure to Europe rang hollow.

You can understand why Wall Street wants to play down the threats from Europe. Its profits depend on the market’s confidence in the products it sells — and on the belief that the firms that sell those products will be around tomorrow.

But MF Global provides two lessons. The first is that our financial institutions are not impervious to Euro-shocks. The second is that when those problems reach our shores, they usually ride in on a wave of derivatives.

“The problems that we’ve had since the inception of the credit derivatives market have never been solved in any meaningful way,” said Janet Tavakoli, president of Tavakoli Structured Finance and an authority on these instruments. “How many times do we want to live through this?”

MF Global’s debacle was a result of complex swaps deals it had struck with trading partners. While those partners owned the underlying assets — in this case, government debt — MF Global held the risk relating to both market price and default.

These arrangements at MF Global underscore two big problems in the credit derivatives market: risks that can be hidden from view, and risks that are not backed by adequate postings of collateral.

These are the same market flaws that helped hide the problems at the American International Group — problems that arose from insurance that A.I.G. had foolishly written on crummy mortgage securities.

The International Swaps & Derivatives Association, an industry lobbying group, contends that the market in credit default swaps is far more transparent than it was in 2008. For example, the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation compiles figures on the number and dollar amount of swaps outstanding on its trade information warehouse.

The numbers are pretty mind-boggling. As of Oct. 28, for example, the warehouse reported $24 billion in net credit default swaps outstanding on debt issued by France, up from $14.4 billion one year ago. Some $17 billion in net credit default swaps were outstanding on Spain, up from $15.5 billion in 2010. Net swaps on Italy were $21.2 billion at last count, down from $28.5 billion last year.

The amount of net credit default swap exposure on the imperiled nation of Greece was much smaller: $3.7 billion late last month. It was $7 billion a year earlier. Officials at the I.S.D.A. say these bets are manageable because they are probably backed by substantial collateral.

MOREOVER, because of the “voluntary” nature of the Greek restructuring deal, which would require private holders of the nation’s debt to write off half its value, the I.S.D.A. predicts that the arrangement should not qualify as a default.

Therefore, the insurance that has been written on all this Greek debt will not cover investor losses generated by the 50 percent write-down — a disturbing consequence to those who thought they were buying insurance against that very risk. Given this turn of events, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would continue to buy credit default swaps.

In any case, the figures compiled by the D.T.C. don’t show the entire amount of credit insurance that has been written on Greece and other nations. D.T.C. says it believes its figures capture 98 percent of the market, but credit default swaps are often struck privately; not all of them are reported to regulators.

Consider an investment vehicle known as a credit-linked note. In these deals, investors buy a note issued by a special-purpose vehicle that contains a credit default swap referencing a debt issuer, like a government. That swap provides credit insurance to the party buying the protection, meaning that the holder of the note is responsible for losses in a so-called credit event, like a default.

Credit-linked notes are very popular and have been issued extensively by European banks. Many are governed by I.S.D.A. contracts, which define the terms of a credit event and require a ruling by the association on whether such an event has occurred.

But some deals have different definitions or contractual language overriding the I.S.D.A. agreement. “The people writing these contracts may say, ‘I would like to be paid if there is a voluntary restructuring of debt, or if Greece goes back to the drachma, or if Greece goes to war with Cyprus,’ ” Ms. Tavakoli said. “I can declare a credit event where I am entitled to get paid if any of those events happen.”

Cash calls can also be generated by declines in the market price of the notes or increases in the cost of insuring the underlying sovereign debt issue, according to credit-linked note prospectuses.

The other party has to agree to these terms up front. But, given the nature of these so-called bespoke deals, we don’t know the full extent of the insurance that investors have written on troubled nations or the circumstances under which the insurance must be paid. Neither do we know who may be facing severe collateral calls or demands for termination payments on the contracts.

When those collateral calls start coming, market values assigned to the securities that have been provided as backup can decline significantly. And when a company’s credit rating is downgraded, as MF Global’s was in late October, cash demands from skittish trading partners become even greater.

“At this late date we still don’t know the risks that are out there,” Ms. Tavakoli said. “This market is opaque, bespoke, and the regulators don’t know what they’re doing.”

At least regulators didn’t deem MF Global too big to fail. That’s a plus. But given the billions at stake in these markets, more transparency is needed about market participants, their financial soundness and their ability to withstand liquidity crises like the one that wiped out MF Global.


Pakistan Indicts 7 in Bhutto Assassination
November 5, 2011

LAHORE, Pakistan — A Pakistani antiterrorism court indicted five militants and two police officers Saturday in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, prosecutors said.

Ms. Bhutto was killed after an election rally in 2007 in an attack by at least one gunman and a suicide bomber, both of whom were believed to have been killed in the assault.

The seven people indicted on Saturday, who include the former police chief of Rawalpindi, where the assassination took place, were charged with being part of a conspiracy.

In a closed-door hearing at a high-security prison in Rawalpindi, Justice Shahid Rafique charged all seven men with criminal conspiracy and murder, according to Chaudhry Azhar, a special public prosecutor in the case.

The five militants, who are believed to be members of the Pakistani Taliban, were arrested four years ago and remain in jail, Mr. Azhar said. Two of them have admitted to helping in the suicide bombing, he said.

The five men were identified as Sher Zaman, Hasnain Gul, Rafaqat Hussain, Abdul Rasheed and Aitzaz Shah. All are from the troubled northwestern region of the country.

The two police officers charged were Saud Aziz, who was the Rawalpindi police chief at the time of the killing, and Khurram Shahzad, another senior officer.

Mr. Azhar said they had been charged with failure to perform their duties by ordering the crime scene hosed down two hours after the attack, by removing evidence and by reducing Ms. Bhutto’s security detail several days before the attack. The two officers were free on bail.

All seven suspects denied the charges on Saturday.

The killing of Ms. Bhutto on Dec. 27, 2007, as she stood in the sunroof of a car waving to crowds two weeks before parliamentary elections, threw Pakistani politics into turmoil. Twice elected prime minister, she was the leader of Pakistan’s largest political party and vying for a third term after having returned from eight years in exile.

Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, was later elected president, and her party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, leads the coalition government.

The circumstances of her death — including the cleansing of the crime scene, the police refusal of an autopsy request, and conflicting reports of the number of attackers and cause of death — have generated confusion about the case and raised questions about the possible involvement of the military government, then led by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Ms. Bhutto’s rival.

A United Nations investigation reported last year that the failure of Pakistani authorities to effectively investigate the killing was “deliberate” and that the investigation had been “severely hampered” by the country’s powerful intelligence agencies.

The report singled out Mr. Aziz, the police chief, for ordering the washing of the scene and impeding the investigation. But it also said that Mr. Aziz gave the order after receiving a call from army headquarters, possibly involving Maj. Gen. Nadeem Ijaz Ahmad, then director general of military intelligence.

The government had blamed Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, for masterminding the attack. Mr. Mehsud was killed by a C.I.A. drone strike in 2009.

Mr. Musharraf, who fled the country in 2008 under threat of impeachment, has also been charged in the case. A Pakistani court issued an arrest warrant for him in February, accusing him of failing to provide Ms. Bhutto with adequate security.

Mr. Musharraf has been living in exile in London and has failed to respond to subpoenas.

Meanwhile, the legal case against the suspects in custody has been delayed by procedural moves on both sides, although four years is not a particularly long time for an indictment in a murder case in Pakistan.

“Whether the case is high profile or low profile, the court has to adopt the legal procedure to ensure justice and fairness,” said Syed Zahid Hussain Bukhari, a former judge and prosecutor in Punjab Province.

The indictment starts the trial phase of the prosecution. The court instructed the accused to present witnesses at the next hearing, on Nov. 19.


Malloy Brings In Former FEMA Director To Assess Utilities; Towns Still Unhappy With CL&P
by Christine Stuart and Hugh McQuaid
Nov 4, 2011 7:39pm

In what could be viewed as a vote of no confidence in the state’s largest utility, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Friday evening that the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under former President Bill Clinton will be coming to assess the response of both Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating to the October Nor’Easter.

James Lee Witt, the CEO of Witt Associates and former FEMA director,  reached out to Malloy through Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and agreed to do the assessment of the two utilities free of charge.

More than 52,000 United Illuminating customers in the southern part of the state had their power back by the middle of the week, while hundreds of thousands of CL&P customers were still in the dark Friday. More than 830,000 were out at some point since last weekend and about 282,000 remained out of power Friday evening.

UI services 17 towns in the New Haven area, while CL&P services 149 towns, including many in the northern part of the state which saw upwards of 20 inches of snow last weekend.

“As soon as everyone’s lights are back on, we need to have a very timely thorough review of the power companies performance to evaluate what went wrong, why it went wrong, and most importantly identify solutions for the short term before winter’s first storm impacts,” Malloy said.

The review will be completed by Dec. 1.

One of Malloy’s biggest disappointments at the beginning of the storm recovery efforts was its inability to get out-of-state crews to Connecticut in a timely manner. Malloy had a follow up conversation today with the deputy from the U.S. Department of Energy who was here on Tuesday. Malloy said he was told the mutual aid agreements require out-of-state crews to stop at the first place that needs assistance and with the storm hitting states to the north it hindered Connecticut’s efforts to get crews in a timely manner.

Jeffrey Butler, president and chief operating officer of CL&P, said the company will do its own internal review and welcomes the review from Witt Associates. He said the company is still on track to have power back to 99 percent of its customers by midnight Sunday.

Meanwhile House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. called for a special session to pass legislation requiring additional utility work crews, minimum staffing levels, and other initiatives he says will shorten future outages.

Malloy said he’s not the first person to come up with that idea.

“I think a special session when we have something to do is highly appropriate. I know something about special sessions probably having the most successful special session in the state’s history when it came to job production and job growth,” Malloy said. “When we have a package to put forward I will be highly supportive of a regular or special session addressing it.”

Public Policy and Public Officials

One of the biggest public policy issues the state will face at some point is: How many trees it should have? A majority of the damage to the power lines was done by falling trees and tree limbs, which are still making some roads impassible six days after the storm.

“There has not historically been an agreement about trees in Connecticut,” Malloy said. “I can tell you that first hand from my 14 years as mayor when I was very aggressive in trying to protect the wires and was roundly criticized for pushing that thought process.”

However, there seems to be a growing consensus amongst Connecticut residents that something has to change, he said.

“What we have learned after the last few days of August is that we are a vulnerable state to different types of weather conditions. Wind and snow are clearly two of those,” Malloy said.

“I think we can have just as beautiful a state without wires being wrapped by trees,” he added.

One of the biggest complaints local town officials have at the moment is all the downed wires tangled in tree branches which they can’t touch until a CL&P crew gives them the okay. And it’s difficult to get a a crew to come to town or stick around after restoring portions of the town.

South Windsor Town Manager Matthew Galligan said he thought CL&P could have been more prepared especially after Tropical Storm Irene.

“They should have been prepared. We deployed our crews. They were ready and waiting right away. But I think [CL&P] fell short,” he said.

While the utility’s liaison program has been helpful, Galligan said there have been some issues. His town had seven or eight restoration crews that helped restore power to businesses that supply local hospitals but he said its difficult to know how long a crew will stick around in town.

“One day you have a crew the next day you don’t have a crew,” he said.

While it’s nice to have businesses up and running, Galligan said the utility has neglected some more life-threatening issues. With more than 30 roads still blocked in town, emergency personnel have no way of reaching residents in emergencies, he said. Earlier in the week, a resident needed to be transported by ambulance to a hospital but EMS workers found the roads to the house impassable, he said.

“They couldn’t get by because of live wires and trees lying all over the place. So they walked in and got him,” Galligan said. “...They walked about a quarter mile.”

On Friday morning South Windsor , Fire Chief Philip E. Crómbie, Jr. sent out a press release condemning CL&P for failing to make the town safe.

“Because of CL&P’s lack of action residents of South Windsor could die in fires and homes could burn to the ground,” the statement said.

Galligan said he thought the press release got their attention. He said he was told by a representative of the Connecticut National Guard that 13 CL&P crews would be heading to South Windsor along with National Guard troops to help and direct traffic.

Andy Goodhall, first selectman of Union, the only town to remain above 90 percent out consistently since Saturday, said he has been having trouble getting any help from CL&P. The town hall, Union’s only shelter, has been running on generator power for six days now, he said. So far only 10 homes have been restored, he said.

“We got a tree cutting crew only for the day on Tuesday. That was a big help but they pulled them out the next day,” he said.

Since then, Goodhall was promised 8 crews to help with tree removal and power restoration but said he only received two of them. Those two crews spent most of the day in neighboring Stafford and had barely made it across the Union by Friday evening, he said.

“These guys lied to us basically and we have this one floundering crew coming here at a snail’s pace,” he said.

The town itself has come together well and residents have done a good job of looking out for each other, he said. But Goodhall was upset, not only with CL&P’s response but that of AT&T and Cox Communication, companies he said have also failed to assist the small town.

“I get it. We only have 455 customers, we don’t mean that much. But if you’re not going to do it don’t promise it. That’s why I’m on a war path,” he said.


To Fix Housing, See the Data
November 4, 2011

In Miami recently, I met up with Laurie Goodman, a senior managing director of Amherst Securities. I’d been trying to meet her ever since I’d read an article that she had written in March entitled “The Case for Principal Reductions.” But our schedules never seemed to mesh. So when I noticed that we were both going to be at a conference in Miami, I wangled a breakfast appointment. It was one of the more illuminating breakfasts I’ve had in a while.

The idea of helping struggling homeowners by writing down some principal on their mortgages — as opposed to reducing the interest or reconfiguring the terms to lower the monthly payments — is much in the air right now. Banks loathe the idea of principal reduction; they fear that people who are current on their mortgages will start defaulting just to get their principal reduced. They also don’t want the hit to their balance sheets.

But the states’ attorneys general who sued over the robo-signing scandal have made principal reduction the central plank of the settlement they are close to completing. The settlement will force the big banks to begin a sustained program of principal reduction, and will heavily penalize banks that don’t comply. From what I hear, the goal of the states is to prove to the banks that principal reduction will not cause the sky to fall — and is, ultimately, less damaging to bank profits than foreclosures.

Housing activists love principal reduction because they tend to see it as a just solution to an unjust situation — it’s a way of making the banks pay a real price for their sins during the subprime madness while allowing people to keep their homes. Conservatives, on the other hand, hate principal reduction. They believe that borrowers who made poor decisions by taking out mortgages they could never afford have to take responsibility for those decisions. If that means foreclosure, so be it.

Enter Laurie Goodman. One of the country’s foremost authorities on mortgage-backed securities, she is also one of the most data-driven people I’ve ever met; at breakfast, she was constantly pointing me to one chart or another that backed up her claims. “She’s not into politics,” says my friend, and her client, Daniel Alpert of Westwood Capital. “She is using data to tell us the truth.”

Her truth begins with a shocking calculation: of the 55 million mortgages in America, more than 10 million are reasonably likely to default. That is a staggering number — and it is, in large part, because so many homes are worth so much less than the mortgage the homeowners are holding. That is, they’re underwater.

Her second calculation is that the supply of housing is going to drastically outstrip demand for the foreseeable future; she estimates that the glut of unneeded homes could get as high as 6.2 million over the next six years. The primary reason for this, she says, is that household formation has been very low in recent years, presumably because of the grim economy. (Young adults are living with their parents instead of moving into their own homes, etc.) What’s more, nearly 20 percent of current homeowners no longer qualify for a mortgage, as lending standards have tightened.

The implication is almost too awful to contemplate. As Goodman put it in testimony she recently gave before Congress, the supply/demand imbalance means that housing prices “are likely to decline further. This may recreate the housing death spiral — as lower housing prices mean more borrowers become underwater.” Which makes them more likely to default, which lowers prices further, and on and on.

The only way to stop the death spiral is through principal reduction. The reason is simple: “The data show that principal modifications work better” than other kinds of modifications, she says. Interest rate reductions can lower monthly payments, but the home remains just as underwater as it was before the modification. And the extent to which a home is underwater is the single best indicator of whether the homeowner will default. The only way to change the imbalance between the size of the mortgage and the value of the home is to reduce principal.

Will widespread principal reduction cause homeowners to purposely default on their mortgages? Goodman has some ideas about how to reduce that likelihood, but she is also realistic: “A borrower will make a decision to default if it is in his or her best interest.”

One wishes that the country could make economic decisions that are in its best interest, decisions that use Laurie Goodman’s data-driven approach instead of being motivated by ideology. Goodman’s case for principal reduction is powerful precisely because it is not about just or unjust, or who’s to blame and who’s at fault.

It is about cold, hard economics. Three years after the bursting of the subprime bubble, principal reduction isn’t just a nice-sounding way to help homeowners. It is our only hope of finally ending the housing crisis.


Shale Gas Revolution
November 3, 2011

The United States is a country that has received many blessings, and once upon a time you could assume that Americans would come together to take advantage of them. But you can no longer make that assumption. The country is more divided and more clogged by special interests. Now we groan to absorb even the most wondrous gifts.

A few years ago, a business genius named George P. Mitchell helped offer such a gift. As Daniel Yergin writes in “The Quest,” his gripping history of energy innovation, Mitchell fought through waves of skepticism and opposition to extract natural gas from shale. The method he and his team used to release the trapped gas, called fracking, has paid off in the most immense way. In 2000, shale gas represented just 1 percent of American natural gas supplies. Today, it is 30 percent and rising.

John Rowe, the chief executive of the utility Exelon, which derives almost all its power from nuclear plants, says that shale gas is one of the most important energy revolutions of his lifetime. It’s a cliché word, Yergin told me, but the fracking innovation is game-changing. It transforms the energy marketplace.

The U.S. now seems to possess a 100-year supply of natural gas, which is the cleanest of the fossil fuels. This cleaner, cheaper energy source is already replacing dirtier coal-fired plants. It could serve as the ideal bridge, Amy Jaffe of Rice University says, until renewable sources like wind and solar mature.

Already shale gas has produced more than half a million new jobs, not only in traditional areas like Texas but also in economically wounded places like western Pennsylvania and, soon, Ohio. If current trends continue, there are hundreds of thousands of new jobs to come.

Chemical companies rely heavily on natural gas, and the abundance of this new source has induced companies like Dow Chemical to invest in the U.S. rather than abroad. The French company Vallourec is building a $650 million plant in Youngstown, Ohio, to make steel tubes for the wells. States like Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York will reap billions in additional revenue. Consumers also benefit. Today, natural gas prices are less than half of what they were three years ago, lowering electricity prices. Meanwhile, America is less reliant on foreign suppliers.

All of this is tremendously good news, but, of course, nothing is that simple. The U.S. is polarized between “drill, baby, drill” conservatives, who seem suspicious of most regulation, and some environmentalists, who seem to regard fossil fuels as morally corrupt and imagine we can switch to wind and solar overnight.

The shale gas revolution challenges the coal industry, renders new nuclear plants uneconomic and changes the economics for the renewable energy companies, which are now much further from viability. So forces have gathered against shale gas, with predictable results.

The clashes between the industry and the environmentalists are now becoming brutal and totalistic, dehumanizing each side. Not-in-my-backyard activists are organizing to prevent exploration. Environmentalists and their publicists wax apocalyptic.

Like every energy source, fracking has its dangers. The process involves injecting large amounts of water and chemicals deep underground. If done right, this should not contaminate freshwater supplies, but rogue companies have screwed up and there have been instances of contamination.

The wells, which are sometimes beneath residential areas, are serviced by big trucks that damage the roads and alter the atmosphere in neighborhoods. A few sloppy companies could discredit the whole sector.

These problems are real, but not insurmountable. An exhaustive study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded, “With 20,000 shale wells drilled in the last 10 years, the environmental record of shale-gas development is for the most part a good one.” In other words, the inherent risks can be managed if there is a reasonable regulatory regime, and if the general public has a balanced and realistic sense of the costs and benefits.

This kind of balance is exactly what our political system doesn’t deliver. So far, the Obama administration has done a good job of trying to promote fracking while investigating the downsides. But the general public seems to be largely uninterested in the breakthrough (even though it could have a major impact on the 21st-century economy). The discussion is dominated by vested interests and the extremes. It’s becoming another weapon in the political wars, with Republicans swinging behind fracking and Democrats being pressured to come out against. Especially in the Northeast, the gas companies are demonized as Satan in corporate form.

A few weeks ago, I sat around with John Rowe, one of the most trusted people in the energy business, and listened to him talk enthusiastically about this windfall. He has no vested interest in this; indeed, his company might be hurt. But he knows how much shale gas could mean to America. It would be a crime if we squandered this blessing.


Olligarchy, American Style
November 3, 2011

Inequality is back in the news, largely thanks to Occupy Wall Street, but with an assist from the Congressional Budget Office. And you know what that means: It’s time to roll out the obfuscators!

Anyone who has tracked this issue over time knows what I mean. Whenever growing income disparities threaten to come into focus, a reliable set of defenders tries to bring back the blur. Think tanks put out reports claiming that inequality isn’t really rising, or that it doesn’t matter. Pundits try to put a more benign face on the phenomenon, claiming that it’s not really the wealthy few versus the rest, it’s the educated versus the less educated.

So what you need to know is that all of these claims are basically attempts to obscure the stark reality: We have a society in which money is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people, and in which that concentration of income and wealth threatens to make us a democracy in name only.

The budget office laid out some of that stark reality in a recent report, which documented a sharp decline in the share of total income going to lower- and middle-income Americans. We still like to think of ourselves as a middle-class country. But with the bottom 80 percent of households now receiving less than half of total income, that’s a vision increasingly at odds with reality.

In response, the usual suspects have rolled out some familiar arguments: the data are flawed (they aren’t); the rich are an ever-changing group (not so); and so on. The most popular argument right now seems, however, to be the claim that we may not be a middle-class society, but we’re still an upper-middle-class society, in which a broad class of highly educated workers, who have the skills to compete in the modern world, is doing very well.

It’s a nice story, and a lot less disturbing than the picture of a nation in which a much smaller group of rich people is becoming increasingly dominant. But it’s not true.

Workers with college degrees have indeed, on average, done better than workers without, and the gap has generally widened over time. But highly educated Americans have by no means been immune to income stagnation and growing economic insecurity. Wage gains for most college-educated workers have been unimpressive (and nonexistent since 2000), while even the well-educated can no longer count on getting jobs with good benefits. In particular, these days workers with a college degree but no further degrees are less likely to get workplace health coverage than workers with only a high school degree were in 1979.

So who is getting the big gains? A very small, wealthy minority.

The budget office report tells us that essentially all of the upward redistribution of income away from the bottom 80 percent has gone to the highest-income 1 percent of Americans. That is, the protesters who portray themselves as representing the interests of the 99 percent have it basically right, and the pundits solemnly assuring them that it’s really about education, not the gains of a small elite, have it completely wrong.

If anything, the protesters are setting the cutoff too low. The recent budget office report doesn’t look inside the top 1 percent, but an earlier report, which only went up to 2005, found that almost two-thirds of the rising share of the top percentile in income actually went to the top 0.1 percent — the richest thousandth of Americans, who saw their real incomes rise more than 400 percent over the period from 1979 to 2005.

Who’s in that top 0.1 percent? Are they heroic entrepreneurs creating jobs? No, for the most part, they’re corporate executives. Recent research shows that around 60 percent of the top 0.1 percent either are executives in nonfinancial companies or make their money in finance, i.e., Wall Street broadly defined. Add in lawyers and people in real estate, and we’re talking about more than 70 percent of the lucky one-thousandth.

But why does this growing concentration of income and wealth in a few hands matter? Part of the answer is that rising inequality has meant a nation in which most families don’t share fully in economic growth. Another part of the answer is that once you realize just how much richer the rich have become, the argument that higher taxes on high incomes should be part of any long-run budget deal becomes a lot more compelling.

The larger answer, however, is that extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy. Can anyone seriously deny that our political system is being warped by the influence of big money, and that the warping is getting worse as the wealth of a few grows ever larger?

Some pundits are still trying to dismiss concerns about rising inequality as somehow foolish. But the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake.


WikiLeaks Founder Can Be Extradited to Sweden in Sex Abuse Case
November 2, 2011

LONDON — Britain’s High Court ruled Wednesday that Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, can be extradited to Sweden for questioning over allegations of sexual abuse made against him by two women there last year. He will seek a final appeal to Britain’s highest court, according to a person close to Mr. Assange.

Two of Britain’s most senior judges declined all four of the objections his defense team had raised, summarizing their decision in five short words: “The court dismissed the appeal.” The decision makes it increasingly likely that Mr. Assange will face his accusers in Sweden.

The 43-page judgment was the latest twist in a dramatic 11-month-long legal battle that has seen multiple court appearances across London, throngs of supporters wielding placards and WikiLeaks temporarily shuttered. Mr. Assange was briefly jailed last December, as Swedish authorities filed an arrest warrant demanding he return to face allegations of sexual molestation, unlawful coercion and rape made by two WikiLeaks volunteers in Stockholm in August 2010...full story here.


Irene and snow storm could extend school calendars
Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT MIRROR
November 2, 2011

Between Tropical Storm Irene and last weekend's winter storm that still has thousands without power, many school districts across the state have already used up all their scheduled snow days--and it's not even winter yet.

"These districts are absolutely going to have to cut in the spring vacations or other breaks," said Robert J. Rader, the head of the state's school board association. He estimates one-third of the school districts across the state have exhausted all their inclement weather days, and will not be able to reach the 180-day school calendar requirement without extending their schedules.

"We are all well aware of the issue and the challenges," said Mark Linabury, a spokesman for the State Department of Education, adding it is way too early to know if the state will need to relax the 180-day requirement. Almost half of the public schools in the state were still closed Tuesday and most districts only allow for about five days to cancel school for inclement weather.

"There may be an opportunity to revisit this," he said.

Last school year, districts found themselves in a similar predicament following a harsh winter. After considering relaxing the 180-day requirement or granting waivers, legislators and the SDE decided against the change.

And it doesn't seem that's going to change this year either. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Tuesday these natural disasters were not enough to convince him to back down on the requirement.

"I am not in favor of changing the 180-day state requirement. Children deserve a quality education regardless of the weather conditions," he said. "I hope on a system-by-system basis, or district-by-district basis, that each district will address this issue."

But Malloy did leave the possibility that spring and summer breaks will not need to be cut into, mentioning longer school days to make up the difference could be a possibility.

"Changing vacation schedules, elongating days, cancelling other holidays, I think that's a better way to assure the children of Connecticut get the quality education they so richly deserve," he said.

Rader warns that all those options could be costly to local boards of educations, since some employee contracts forbid such initiatives without additional pay for the unionized workers.

"There's going to be a budget impact," he said.

Thirty other states besides Connecticut have the 180-school day requirement, with the remaining states allowing districts to have longer school days to meet the hours of instruction requirements, according to the Education Commission of the States.

"There's no federal requirement whatsoever on the school calendar -- this is a state decision 100 percent," said Kathy Christie, the chief of staff for the non-partisan ECS, a education policy research group.

Christie said if Connecticut does change it's mind and decide to relax this requirement, it would not be the first time a state has had to rethink their requirement because of natural disasters. Following Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana relaxed their requirements. Kentucky, Tennessee and Washington have also changed their laws in recent years as well.


Plan to Leave Euro for Drachma Gains Support in Greece

November 1, 2011

The political upheaval in Athens has suddenly made the once unspeakable — Greek debt default — a distinct possibility.  So now it is time to ponder the once unthinkable: that Greece might end its 10-year use of the euro and return to its former currency, the drachma...full story here.


Government in Greece Nears Collapse Over Referendum
November 1, 2011

ATHENS — The Greek government was plunged into chaos on Tuesday and faced an imminent collapse, as lawmakers rebelled against Prime Minister George Papandreou’s surprise call for a popular referendum on a new debt deal with Greece’s foreign lenders.

Such a collapse would not only render the referendum plan moot, it would likely scuttle — or at least delay — the debt deal that was agreed on in Brussels last week, putting Greece on a fast track to default and possible exit from the monetary union of countries sharing the euro currency...full story here.


In The Aftermath Of Historic October Storm
Outdid Irene: Pre-Halloween storm caused the largest number of outages ever in Connecticut

Hartford Courant editorial
November 1, 2011

Tropical Storm Irene was, it seems, just a dress rehearsal for the ferocious nor'easter that battered Connecticut this past weekend. But the question remains open as to whether Connecticut has learned the right lessons from the storm that buffeted the state barely two months ago.

The wicked October snowstorm eclipsed August's summery blast, causing 884,000 customers to lose power — the largest number of outages ever in Connecticut — compared with 767,000 homes and businesses without electricity during Irene's peak. The October storm knocked down five times as many trees as Irene, the state says. And it did critical damage to 44 transmission lines.

In all, it left a mess. Enough to, sadly, make Halloween too risky in communities still struggling with massive damage. It's wiser to put it off to next weekend.

As much of Connecticut lay in darkness Sunday night — utility crews were assessing the damage, officials said — distressed residents without power were wondering where the cavalry was. Rescue efforts seemed slow off the mark.

Sure, it would be great if people would buck up and live like pioneers and love it — but the truth is that not everybody can. The longer the outages, the more lost: work and school time, spoiled food, hygiene, public comity and more. It's not really a camping trip.

If anything was clear after Irene and the legislative hearings that followed, it was that tree limbs had to be cleared from power lines. Connecticut has had this argument many times. Burying power lines is too expensive, the utilities say. So let's be more aggressive in pruning.

We expect that the inevitable hearings after this freaky storm (it really deserves a name) will tell us whether utility companies need to add more full-time crews to do the pruning work. If they haven't, they should. The number of trees downed by snow and wind this past weekend is all the evidence that's needed.


Supreme Court will not hear student speech case
Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT MIRROR
October 31, 2011

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the student speech case in which a high school junior from Burlington was punished for criticizing school administrators in a personal blog posting.

"This is the end of the road for this case. There really are no more avenues to pursue to overturn the lower court decisions," said Frank LoMonte, the director of the Student Press Law Center.

Education lawyers and student speech activists have said the case would have provided a good opportunity for the high court to set a precedent for what rights students have in off-campus speech. The 1969 Supreme Court ruling in Tinker v. Des Moines has provided guidance for decades to school officials on when they can intervene in students speech, but the advent of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other digital forums have complicated matters.

The Tinker ruling reversed the disciplinary measures against students wearing black armbands to school in protest of the Vietnam War, declaring that students don't "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." But the justices did allow administrators to restrain speech if it "invades the rights of others" or creates "substantial disorder."

"I am not surprised they didn't take the case. For many, many years the courts have held administrators can discipline for speech that is disruptive at school," said Thomas R. Gerarde, the lawyer for the officials in Region 10 School District that punished student Avery Doninger for calling them "douchebags"

Federal district and appellate courts have recently issued conflicting rulings on the question of when off-campus speech can be subject to punishment at school.

In upholding the punishment of Doninger, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York noted "The Supreme Court has yet to speak on the scope of a school's authority to regulate expression that... does not occur on school grounds." They instead decided to back the school officials saying they are immune from liability and lawsuits.

Sandy Staub, the legal director for American Civil Liberties Union's Connecticut chapter, said lower courts and the Supreme Court have skirted the opportunity to clarify the rights of students when they speak off-campus.

"It just leaves the question for another day," she said.

"We may have to wait a couple more years of uncertainty before the Supreme Court decides to weigh in," LoMonte said. "They need to consider the free speech issues and determine what the boundaries are when students are off campus."

But Gerarde says the Tinker ruling already has set those boundaries.

"Tinker is all that we need... We don't need any clarification," he said.

Doninger, who is now in college at Eastern Connecticut State University, needed four justices to agree to hear the case for it to move forward.

New York City Will Demolish Hundreds of Storm-Hit Homes
November 17, 2012

New York City is moving to demolish hundreds of homes in the neighborhoods hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy, after a grim assessment of the storm-ravaged coast revealed that many structures were so damaged they pose a danger to public safety and other buildings nearby.

About 200 homes will be bulldozed in the coming weeks and months, almost all of them one- and two-family houses on Staten Island, in Queens and Brooklyn. That is in addition to 200 houses that are already partially or completely burned down, washed away or otherwise damaged; those sites will also be cleared.

The Buildings Department is still inspecting nearly 500 other damaged structures, some of which could also be razed, according to the commissioner, Robert L. LiMandri.

Mr. LiMandri, in an interview late last week, said neither he nor his staff could recall the city ever undertaking this kind of broad reshaping of its neighborhoods.

“We’ve never had this scale before,” Mr. LiMandri said. “This is what New Yorkers have read about in many other places and have never seen, so it is definitely unprecedented. And by the same token, when you walk around in these communities, people are scared and worried, and we’re trying to make every effort to be up front and share with them what they need to do.”

No decisions have been made about rebuilding in the storm-battered areas — a complicated question that would involve not only homeowners, but also insurers and officials in the state, local and federal governments. Some of the houses that are being torn down were built more than a half-century ago as summer bungalows, then winterized and expanded. Current building codes would likely prohibit reconstruction of similar homes.

The Buildings Department expects to have a more precise assessment by early this week of how many buildings must be razed.

And then there is the emotional toll. Many of the homes set to be knocked down are in tight-knit working- and middle-class neighborhoods, where they are often handed down from generation to generation.

“Listen, we want public safety, and we have to move on, but you have to give some people — — ” Mr. LiMandri said, pausing, then adding: “I mean, look, a lot of these are people’s homes that, probably, they may have even grown up in it, and it was their father’s house. I mean, that’s the kind of communities we’re talking about.”

One challenge facing the department is reaching owners of the homes facing demolition. Many are now living elsewhere — with friends or family or in hotels or shelters — and are barred from entering the houses because they are unsafe.

The city is trying to proceed with sensitivity, with Buildings Department staff members walking the streets in these neighborhoods, trying to track down those affected through their friends and neighbors and urging them to go to one of the six recovery centers set up by the city and to register their damaged homes by calling 311.

But, in some cases, where the danger is imminent, the department will issue an emergency declaration to bulldoze the buildings, even if the owners have not been contacted.

“This is not easy, in this case, because of all these displaced people, but we’re going to do the best we can, but we may have to move on it if we can’t find them,” Mr. LiMandri said.

Eric A. Ulrich, a Republican city councilman from Queens who represents Breezy Point, Belle Harbor, Broad Channel and some of the other affected neighborhoods, said that he had not been notified of the demolitions, but that the forced destruction of people’s homes would come as a terrible shock.

“My constituents have been through so much, and they are just so distraught, and if that were to happen and if they were told that the home that they grew up in or they bought has to be taken against their will, it’s just devastating news,” he said.

Buildings Department employees were at work over the weekend issuing more demolition orders. Among the buildings razed last week was a home in Broad Channel, Queens, that was so pummeled by Hurricane Sandy that it was left leaning at a 30-degree angle. Two houses in other parts of the Rockaways were also demolished in recent days, with a grappler — a huge attachment affixed to a backhoe or bulldozer that looks like a set of steel dinosaur jaws and takes bites out of buildings.

In the days after the storm, Mr. LiMandri’s staff, with the aid of outside engineers and architects, fanned out to examine sections of the city that suffered water damage and other structural deterioration as a result of the flooding. They checked more than 80,000 buildings and declared 891 unsafe to enter, affixing red tags to the structures to signal the potential danger to owners and residents.

The wholesale demolition of damaged buildings after natural disasters is not uncommon, and while the commissioner called the razing of hundreds of homes unprecedented for New York City, thousands were torn down in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Mr. LiMandri said his staff had been in contact with officials there to learn from their experience.

With the pace of the demolition work expected to quicken in coming days, one question that remains unresolved is who will pay for it. Ordinarily, the property owners are responsible for the costs; current relief programs provide only for funds to help repair damaged homes.

Mr. LiMandri stressed that just because a building has been given a red tag does not mean it will be torn down.

Indeed, he said, many of those structures, including several giant commercial and residential buildings in Lower Manhattan, can be made safe for occupancy again after specific problems are addressed. These include weakened foundations and plumbing, electrical or mechanical damage caused by seawater flooding basements and, in some cases, mixing with fuel oil.

Mr. LiMandri said he did not believe that any of the buildings set to be demolished were multiunit apartment buildings and, while there might be a small number of houses razed in the Bronx, none were likely to be torn down in Manhattan.

The damaged houses — in neighborhoods like Breezy Point, Belle Harbor and Rockaway Beach in Queens, South Beach, Midland Beach and Fox Beach on Staten Island and Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn — all have two things in common: they were older homes, and they were close to the water.

“Some of these neighborhoods have really been hit hard, and as you walk around, you realize that the newer buildings that have newer codes, that are built to newer codes, they have withstood; although they have water damage, they’re still standing,” Mr. LiMandri said. “And they can be right next to something that was built in the ’20s, which is not there anymore or essentially gone.”

Reconsidering Flood Insurance
November 8, 2012

IN the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, homeowners and renters who have insurance are discovering what it covers — and what it doesn’t — while those with minimal or no insurance may be recalculating their risks.

As images of waterlogged houses continue to dominate the news, the biggest surprise may be that most homeowners’ and renters’ policies do not cover damage due to flooding. To get that coverage, you generally have to buy a separate policy through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program, but many people skip it — even though floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States.

“Only 18 percent of Americans have flood insurance,” said Loretta Worters, a vice president of the Insurance Information Institute, a nonprofit sponsored by the insurance industry. According to the National Flood Insurance Program, 25 percent of flood claims come from people in low- or moderate-risk areas; last year New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania were the top three states for these claims. But people who have recently bought or refinanced homes in flood zones are more likely to have flood insurance, because banks will not lend in those high-risk areas unless borrowers are insured. Property insurance is complex, and benefits and deductibles vary depending on the policy you buy, but here are answers to some common questions about coverage for storm damage...full story here.

CL&P: Storm shows tree trimming need
Greenwich TIME
Frank MacEachern and Lisa Chamoff
Updated 10:26 p.m., Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Sunday storm that left thousands of Greenwich residents powerless shows the need to trim and prune trees, a spokesman for Connecticut Light & Power said.

Mitch Gross said the utility, which has doubled its tree trimming and cutting budget for its work across the state after two storms knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of state residents last year, will continue to advocate that their power lines need to be protected.

"We believe that it is in the interests of our customers," Gross said.

The worst of this week's outage occurred when an 85-foot tree behind 103 Summit Road in Riverside fell, shorting the main transmission line bringing power to all of Greenwich Monday morning, cutting power to 99 percent of town.

The tree was initially identified as being on Metro-North Railroad property, but a railroad spokesman said Tuesday it is not.

Greg Islan, a homeowner at 103 Summit Road, said the tree is also not on his property. The owner of the property could not be determined Tuesday.

Gross said the utility works with all parties to ensure trees do not pose threats. "We talk regularly on a variety of issues with Metro-North and with others," he said.

JoAnn Messina, executive director of the Greenwich Tree Conservancy, said the organization strongly believes in pruning trees and keeping them healthy, and supports the town's program of getting rid of aging trees.

"We have to keep in mind that the benefits of these trees far outweigh these incidents," Messina said. "Unfortunately, we have, and continue to have, five or 10 days a year we have issues with trees. I think it's a balancing act."

Messina said she spoke at a recent hearing in favor of CL&P "going slowly" when taking down trees on Nawthorne Road in Old Greenwich, which sustained the brunt of the storm damage.

"I was pleased with the tree warden's decision, which was basically that, yes, it is an aged tree group, but we need to work toward slowly replanting as we take (them) down," Messina said." I think all of us are always sorry to see these things come down in the storms. We have to take a reasonable stance. Some of the trees CL&P wanted to take down weren't going to affect the lines."

One tree that Tree Warden Bruce Spaman spared on Nawthorne Road was uprooted during Sunday's storm.

The Norway maple uprooted, landing on a home at 26 Keofferam Road. The home, near Nawthorne Road, sustained some damage to its second floor, said its owner, who declined to be identified.

Spaman said many trees sustained damage higher up, which he believes is due to the storm's unusual nature.

Town officials said the area was hit by a microburst, when high winds strike down in a small area.

"They were sheared off 30 feet above the ground," Spaman said. "They were not really in a weakened condition."

A home at 12 Wahneta Road in Old Greenwich sustained the most significant damage. That street is parallel to Nawthorne Road.

A tree on town property that appeared healthy uprooted and toppled into a tree at 12 Wahneta Road, Spaman said, causing that tree to fall on the house.

He said the tree's root system was in poor shape, something that wasn't apparent until it fell.

"It looked healthy, but it was compromised by disease, visually on the outside it looked A-OK," he said."

Greenwich Emergency Management Director Daniel Warzoha said 62 town streets were affected in the storm, with trees or wires down on the. In addition to 12 Wahneta Road, another eight homes had trees or branches on them, with either minimal or no damage.

Barbara Cooper's home at 18 Grimes Road in Old Greenwich was one of three still without power Tuesday afternoon. During the storm, a large tree branch fell in her yard, pulling down power lines.

CL&P workers came to the home four times before power was finally restored.

"They could have been a little more organized," Cooper said.

The Coopers got power back by 4 p.m. Tuesday.