United Illuminating CEO Defends Employees, Holds to 95% Monday Timeline

James Torgerson, President and CEO of UIL Holdings, parent company of UI, held a press conference at UI headquarters in Orange, CT Thursday evening.

Response to 'Discriminating' Accusations

"None of that is occurring," Torgerson said. "We're sending our crews everywhere. For example, we have 70 resources in Bridgeport today, we have 64 in Milford, we 70 in Fairfield."

Comment on People 'Not Showing Respect' to Field Crews

Referring to incidents in which citizens of towns and cities have allegedly thrown things at field crew employees or threatened to throw things at them, Torgerson said, "We really can't tolerate that."

How Many Hours Are UI Crews Working?  

 "They're working 16 hour days," Torgerson said. "This is not just people in the field. We've got people working here who are sleeping overnight. Most of people in the field haven't even been home. They work 16-hour days, go somewhere to sleep and get back out there."

Milford Gas Leak 

Torgerson spoke of the gas leak in Milford Thursday morning. "Our gas people were there very quickly," Torgerson said. "It's under control. No individuals or nobody from the public was in any jeopardy. It's been taken care of and it's being taken care of right now."

Number of Workers Compared to Irene

Torgerson said that UI will have 1,170 workers on the ground in Connecticut as of tomorrow, an increase of the less than 700 they had working at the height of Irene.

He is planning to stick to the announcement that 95% of UI customers will have power back by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, November 5th.

Margherita November 02, 2012 at 03:12 PM
We are not asking Torgerson to defend his employees, he makes the decisions and he is responsible. It is his incompetence that people are questioning.
Frank November 02, 2012 at 03:39 PM
According to UI's website and outages: 28 percent out in Bridgeprt and 45 percent out in Fairfield ... Torgenson reports 70 crew out in Bridgeport and 70 on Fairfield- doesn't sound like much equity going on here!
Kathy November 02, 2012 at 03:56 PM
My observations on UI response is pitiful. The winds died down on Tuesday afternoon and the crews were still accessing Thursday? It was obvious at this point UI did not staff properly. Don't you think Wednesday would have been a good time to call in for more help? Good project management would have the fixing crews right behind the inspecting crews especially in the areas where there was no flooding and trees down.... If you walked around from 10 to 2 pm through the Grasmere section yesterday, Fairfield Metro train station and the beach area by Jennings and the marina, NOT ONE UI truck was seen the entire time!!! I leave for work at 7 and come back at 6 and never see trucks anywhere on the streets in lower Fairfield Grasmere section. Do they work 9 to 3? CL&P is working with crews restoring power to homes at 10 pm midnight 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. What is UI doing? Having the entire crew sleep from sunset to sunrise?
Kathy November 02, 2012 at 03:56 PM
The temperatures are dropping and the residence are not getting their power back but the business are. Understand that getting the gas stations and some restaurants and food stores is important, but the residents are cold and the temperatures are continuing to drop at night. Billboards and all sorts of non-essential places are being restored before the residence. Do you really think this is the way things should be managed. I don’t. It is infuriating to see advertisement shining in bright light when that power could be used to keep families warm and safe. POOR JOB UI IN MANAGING THIS EVENT WHICH YOU HAD PLENTY OF NOTICE FOR!
Kathy November 02, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Great point Frank! I don't see any truck in Fairfield in the Grasmere section. What are you doing for the Fairfield area including poor Southport...
Jim November 02, 2012 at 04:34 PM
If you think about it this was a Historic Storm....I'm impressed that half the town has power back.. He is in a thanksless position. Yes he had time to prepare but those of you that are out of power have had outages the last 2 years and had plenty of time to get a generator and prepare to minimize the impact. Stop whinging and take some responsibilty yourself. I thank the linemen for working so hard while there houses and family are without power as well - I was ready to go for another week. Historic Storm be happy you are alive and well.
New to Southport November 02, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Can someone tell me why Southport is the forgotten town? I have not seen one truck in Southport, there has been no movement in restoring power since Monday here.
southport resident November 02, 2012 at 05:02 PM
A historic storm, yes. Was there advanced warning that it was coming, yes. Did I prepare, yes. Did part of my preparation include buying a generator, no. And it should't. Not everyone can afford a generator, Jim. Just as the citizen's were asked to prepare, so should UI have prepared. Crews should have been brought in before the storm hit and staged at the ready as soon as the storm had passed. Poor manaement. As a Southport resident, we once again are the very last to see work crews. Just because I live in Southport doesn't mean I can afford a generatlr or to be able to go to a hotel. Unacceptable UI. And Jim, this is not whining. UI employees should be thrilled to have the extra work in these hard times. But that's just it, no one likes hard work anymore. The employees will be compensated nicely for their overtime,Jim. They are not volunteering. Flat out poor planning and poor management UI.
S. Frank November 02, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Jim must work for a utility company. The utilities bragged about how much better prepared they were after last year's storm left so many with out power for so long. And, here we are again! No better and probably worse. it was all talk, which is what they are great at. The other thing they are great at is sending out their bills. I got mine right on time. No power, but a bill instead. Definition od incompetence = UI & CL&P
Atown November 02, 2012 at 05:13 PM
I can understand the frustration and fear, we're an electricity dependent community and being without it is scary. I would like to know a) What you consider a reasonable restoration time frame given the size and the scope of the storm? b) What your reaction would be to extensive tree removal along existing power lines to prevent this from happening again? c) What your reaction would be to an increased electric cost so that lines can be put underground to prevent this from happening again? d) If you have a fundamental issue with the UI priority setting system that places key facilities and large groups of people over individual homes? e) Given the pre-storm warnings from the state & local governments, and UI that we may be out of power for several days, and the lessons learned from the last two storms, what did you do to prepare?
eric November 02, 2012 at 05:18 PM
well put, agree 100%
Tucker November 02, 2012 at 05:26 PM
It seems to me the only way most of you would be satisfied with their performance is if the power never went out. That's just unrealistic.
Diane S. November 02, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Hmmmmm Southport resident, can't afford a generator??? Lives near the water, Hurricanes every year....Power goes out every year Ever consider moving? And the workers should get paid! You go to work for free? not whining eh??? Light a candle and read a book!
Ffld Citizen November 02, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Agreed. Everyone wants UI to carry enough staff to get power back on in 24 hours after a truly historic or harden the system (i.e. underground wires which cost 5-6x more than above ground) so we don't lose power, but when electricity rates (namely distribution charges) increase 5x people won't want to pay for it. You have to take the good (reasonable rates) with the bad (disruptive power outages). And no, I don't work for UI, I'm just a pragmatic citzen.
06890 November 02, 2012 at 05:58 PM
@Frank Bridgeport has three times as many residents as Fairfield. If they have 28% out that would be like us having 84% out. C'mon man! We're receiving more crews than they are, relative to the number of people that are out. (and trust me I'm the furthest thing from an Obama socialist...it's just basic numbers) Either way the response time is unnacceptable. It's a shame we're subjected to monopolies in electric supply. If barriers to entry weren't so high we would benefit incredibly from providers competeing against one another. Just like if we had more options than the Dolan's and their bootleg Cablevision operation.
Jim November 02, 2012 at 06:02 PM
I dont work for the utility company and I am not in the 1% but manage a company. When the linemen were near my neighborhood (which is usually the last to go online) I thanked the men who drove all night from AL to hlep us and brought them coffee and doughnuts. I guess by not throwing eggs at the linemen or annoying them with, "when will my power be back" they instead asked me where I lived - what do you know we had power 6 hours later. My issue is what ever happened to manners and patience. This was an epic storm and we pay enough for electricity already if they had crews on hand that expense would have been passed up by us and if the storm was a dud you'd be calling that out as well. How would you make it better? It's easy to complain.....btw they are calling for a Nor-Easter next week....maybe get ready now.....you can get a generator for 0 down at Home Depot and not interest in 12 months.
Caitlin Mazzola (Editor) November 02, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Update -- According to First Selectman Tetreau at this afternoon's community meeting, there are 66 UI crews on the ground in Fairfield/Southport today. Currently, 41.73 percent of Fairfield is without power as well as 40.9 percent of Southport.
lbh November 02, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Well said, with the amount of damage that I saw, I was amazed how much had been done yesterday. This storm was far worse than last years. Considering some of the tragic losses of human life in this storm, loss of power for a few days is minor.
Interested Party November 02, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Jim: I'm with you. The linemen and crewmen of the UI and other utility companies are only mere humans, they really cannot be expected to right the world in a few days. Anyone who has ever done any actual physical and dangerous work would know that lines cannot just be tacked up in 10 minutes! There are thousands of trees and lines down all over the place! Stop whining!
tonypct November 02, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Jim, you are making gross generalizations about the linemen and Fairfield DPW crews working in town. I don't know anyone who hasn't given them the respect, and when possible, the thanks for working so hard to restore power. Nobody is blaming them. My problem, and the issue with many other residents without power, is with UI management. I thought they had learned some lessons from the past two storms. Plus, they had plenty of advanced notice that this storm would be of catastrophic proporations. Yet, the response is the same as last year. Everybody I know prepared as well as they can. And nobody I know expected UI's response to be as inefficient as the last two reponses to severe weather. You seem to be putting ALL the repsonsibility on those of us who still have no power and are critical of UI. Where is UI's responsibility in this? What have they done differently from the past? In my humble opinion, absolutely nothing. Too bad the penalties for poor restoration response by electric utilities are not in effect for this storm.
tonypct November 02, 2012 at 08:29 PM
lbh, I couldn't agree with you more. But not experiencing loss of life or property damage does not get UI off the hook for yet another abysmal response.
southport resident November 02, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Hey Diane S.-just for the record, I never said I live near or on the beach in Southport, nor did I say UI crews should work for free. For your information, my husband and I both work two jobs in order to keep the tiny ranch we have lived in for the past 23 years. You see Diane, my husband lost his job 3 years ago. You were quick to make a very biased assumption about Southport residents. I made no assumptions about UI. I have every right to express my dissatisfaction with my electric company that I pay, on time, every month. They expect that. As I expect them to be more than prepared in terrible storms such as these. They knew it was coming. Poor management. I love the home we have. Why should I move? Again, not whining, stating facts. Watch those assumptions Diane.
JenningsPenfieldSouthPineCreekSascoSouthport November 02, 2012 at 09:28 PM
To Diane S....re: her comments to Southport Resident Consider moving? Hurricanes every year? What are you smoking? We've had two hurricanes in the last 70 years, not to mention, those of us who VALUE HARD WORK, and find themselves in the fortunate position to live in a great neighborhood like Southport, shouldn't have to apologize for it. Completely agree with Southport Resident on this one. Completely disgusted with Diane S. My guess is she is from Derby.
Jerry McTigue November 02, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Heck of a job, Torgie! UIL Holdings has a market cap of $1.8 billion. They earned $100 million last year, Irene and all. There's no excuse why they couldn't have had the equipment and manpower in place to respond more quickly and vigorously to the storm, having been warned of its tremendous size and ferocity days in advance. Nobody is faulting the linemen. There was just a tragic lack of them in place. UI was woefully, incompetently prepared for this. Clearly, they put their shareholders' profit above the health and safety of the customers they serve. This is not whining. This is holding a company accountable to the communities they serve, a company that's awarded a monopoly to deliver electricity in exchange for upholding the public safety and trust. In this they have failed miserably. Now two years in a row. Something has to be done to change this, because mammoth storms like this one are becoming the rule rather than the exception.
Joe November 02, 2012 at 10:56 PM
I am tired of the whining and complaining. We just experienced the greatest and most devastating storm this state has seen since 1938, And these people want everything instantaneously fixed everywhere. How remarkably self-centered and ungrateful some of these people are. My needs before everyone else. This is a community of whiners who have no concept of how good they have things compared to the rest of the world.
Mike November 03, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Some of you have no idea. I see the I.Q. Of southport and I never been there.
tonypct November 03, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Joe, nobody here expects power to be restored "instantaneoulsy." But even you must be aware of UI's supposed changes in their restoration efforts from their last fiasco with Irene. And even after that with the snowstorm. And how did that work out this time? I am frustrated with UI and their once again lack of a proper response.
JenningsPenfieldSouthPineCreekSascoSouthport November 03, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Mike, I am excited beyond belief that you exist, you have no idea. Let's break down what kind of intellectual contribution you've made, shall we? "I see the I.Q. Of southport and I never been there." To me, it appears as though you are toying with the idea of utilizing the past perfect tense to get your point across, but in all likelihood, when this lesson was taught in 5th grade, you were probably high, and/or drunk, and probably in Derby. For the record, no one is questioning the resolve of the UI workers themselves, outside, on the trucks and lifts, braving the wind and rain, to physically restore our power one wire crimp at a time. That is not the UI in question. My issue is with the UI that has created and implemented what is most definitely on the bottom of the "great restoration plans" list.
pissedoffjoe November 04, 2012 at 06:21 AM
I have lived in the Stratfield section for 20 yrs. Up until with a few years ago, we NEVER lost power. Now it seems we are among the last to have power restored. When asking UI about it, we're told we are "insignificant" (their word) because we are on a grid with 100 homes and they deal with grids with a 1,000 homes. So, how were they so "prepared" for this storm? Where does UI's CEO live? Is he in a house with 48° temperature? How can we get a new power company here?
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