BWL Ripped by House Committee During Ice Storm Hearing

By: Anthony Sabella Email
By: Anthony Sabella Email

Looking back at the December ice storm, Consumers Energy and the Lansing Board of Water and Light had a pretty similar experience, initially, including dealing with thousands who lost power.

However, in the end, the results were much different. At Tuesday's House Energy and Technology Committee hearing, Dan Malone, a Senior Vice President for Consumers, laid down his company's response, first.

"We started our pre-planning with conference calls on December 18," he told the committee. "We utilized multiple weather services and on-call meteorologists to help us be able to predict where to place our crews."

After detailing the damage, Malone focused on improving accuracy of restoration times and system reliability, facing few questions from the committee. The Board of Water and Light wasn't so fortunate.

George Stojic, Executive Director of Strategic Planning and Development, explained that the storm hit the BWL customer base head-on, knocking out 40 percent, but admitted the Outage Management System failed.

"We could not accurately determine the total number of customers that were out of service and could not communicate effectively with those customers," said Stojic.

Representatives called out the utility's response.

"I feel like I'm sitting at a Detroit Lions press conference, explaining another losing season," said Rep. Jeff Farrington, (R-Utica).

Members of the committee questioned everything from General Manager J. Peter Lark's New York trip in the middle of the outage to the utility's poor use of social media for communication.

"I'm completely appalled," said Rep. Henry Yanez, (D-Sterling Heights). "You've failed your customers and I think you have a lot of work to do."

Stojic says, that work will get done.

"Our next step, of course, will be a major in-depth review," he said.

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