That belief matters. If CL&P can prove to state regulators that the costs were necessary as part of prudent and well planned operations, the costs can be passed on to ratepayers. Combined with CL&P's cleanup costs associated with Tropical Storm Irene, which could total about $75 million, the 2011 storm costs could be significant.
But ratepayers should not expect to see an increase in their bills anytime soon. All of the expenses of CL&P, or any regulated electric distribution company, are rolled together and considered as part of a rate case whenever the firm seeks one. CL&P last filed a case in late 2009, decided in July 2010.
So far, a spokesman for the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority said Thursday, CL&P has not yet filed to collect expenses for Irene.
"They can go in specifically on the issue of recovering storm-related expenses," spokesman Dennis Schain said, or they can wait until a future rate case.
When the authority — formerly the state Department of Public Utility Control — decides on allowable expenses, it also decides how long a period of years those expenses should be spread out, "so that it won't create a spike in rates," Shacin said.
With CL&P's total annual expenses exceeding $2.5 billion, it's unlikely the storm costs would add a large percentage to ratepayers' bills. The rates already allow $9.6 million a year in storm expenses and CL&P can collect a few million more dollars through insurance.
'Vigilante Tree Cutters'
Mayors and first selectmen continued to express anger at the pace of CL&P's efforts to restore electricity, particularly in hard-hit areas such as the Farmington Valley.
James Finley, chief executive officer of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, participated in a conference call with 29 mayors and first selectmen in the Capitol Region Council of Governments with CL&P official Dan Moore, who is well known at the Capitol for his representation of the company. The mayors and town managers were highly frustrated over the response so far.
"They're lucky that the CL&P guys were on the phone,'' Finley said. "They'd hang these guys now. They're doubting they will have 99 percent of the state back on Sunday. There was a lot of frustration from municipal officials.''
Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman, who participated in the same conference call as Finley, said: "Towns are not getting the information they need in terms of power restoration. The information we're getting is spotty and not accurate and incomplete. … We need better coordination and better information.''
Throughout the Farmington Valley, including Avon and Granby, residents are simply not seeing CL&P trucks on their streets. But CL&P has pledged to meet Friday with leaders of the valley towns to unveil a detailed plan for power restoration.
In a particularly dangerous move, some Simsbury residents have apparently taken matters into their own hands and have started to remove the trees, brush, and downed wires themselves, Glassman said. The problem is that, with the use of generators nearby, the power lines that someone believes are dead could actually become re-energized.
"Folks are going out there and cutting wires,'' Glassman said. "That's not town crews. They're becoming vigilante tree cutters.''
In West Hartford, Mayor Scott Slifka taped a "robocall'' that was sent automatically to the phones of his town's homeowners.
"I do wish that I had better news about the restoration of power to your homes,'' Slifka said. "CL&P continues to move at a glacial pace. While additional crews have been dispatched to West Hartford, the number remains starkly insufficient. At present, power has been restored to approximately 11 percent of our homes. Additionally, CL&P has advised that its initial estimate of 99 percent restoration by midnight on Sunday was too optimistic. Unfortunately, we have not been provided with a revised estimate.''
Like Glassman and Slifka, Malloy noted the slow pace of the restorations and the questions about the 99 percent deadline. "I wonder myself – getting out there and seeing the extent of this damage,'' Malloy said of the target.
The town of Vernon is awaiting a new generator to replace the one that stopped working at the sewage pump station on Phoenix Avenue, Mayor Jason McCoy said.
A member of the National Guard was in town Friday, he said, "I believe because it's coming and they're going to hook it up."
"We need to have a realistic effort to get this situation resolved, and I am concerned about Connecticut Water," McCoy said.