The recent deluge of most welcome snow has created power outages to over 70,000 Utah Power & Light Company customers. Going into the fourth day, there are still over 2,500 customers without power. In several instances, there is room for error and finger pointing at several parties involved. The old axiom of what starts in a circle comes around in a circle.
When PacifiCorp took over Utah Power & Light Company, one of its first changes was reduction of personnel. For the intent and purpose of giving those holding the high positions in the company a humongous bonus from the salaries of those employees dismissed. If you inquire from a person that was released from the company the reduction was 20 percent of the payroll. If you inquire of an employee still working, the percentage of employee reduction was 17 percent. The majority of those dismissed from the company payroll was in the Lines and Service Department of the company.
In one district there were five line crews. One crew was assigned to maintain the transmission lines, the other four crews were assigned to distribution services, which included connecting new customers, installing outdoor yard lights, replacing rotted poles and broken cross arms and poles hit by cars, etc. One of those crews was a tree trimming crew that cut the limbs on trees that were growing up or out into the distribution lines. Now there are only three crews assigned in that district, the tree trimming crew was dismissed.
Another area had three crews. There are none there now and the UP&L property was sold.
The following year PacifiCorp applied to the Public Service Commission for a rate increase. If PacifiCorp was running short of funding why did they ignore plowing part of the humongous payroll profit given to the top executives back into the company.
Before the Public Service Commission gave PacifiCorp their rate increase did they make inquiries of the Consumer Protection Agency if they were receiving any complaints of PacifiCorp service to its customers?
Now let's look at those 70,000 customers who were, and some still are, voicing strong words of protest. When the Utah Power & Light crews approached the customer who has trees on their property that had grown up into the distribution lines refusing to give the crews the right to top their tree and deform it. I think perhaps the Environmental Protection Agency should step in and inform those people refusing to have their trees trimmed to insure the flow of power in such instances as this recent snow storm, that person refusing to let his trees be trimmed should be held accountable for all costs if it can be proved his tree created the power outage.
The time is now, that those agencies that are dealing directly with the public to review their back track record and make the necessary adjustments, to prevent another repeat.
I suggest that our legislators pass a law: Whereas, any company servicing the public, when filing for a rate increase be required to mail out to all their customers in a stamped, addressed envelope, with a customer service questionnaire enclosed allowing their customers to rate them. There should be line space at the bottom of the questionnaire where specific incidents can be specified. This should be mailed to the Consumer Protection Agency and they in return have dialogue with Utah Public Service Commission before the rate increase is granted.
It is time the Environmental Protection Agency got their act together and declare all distribution lines including telephone and cable TV be buried on any new development. Cities and towns be so advised as to correlate their planning department, notifying the electrical, telephone and television companies to start a burial program of putting a percentage of their old lines that are above ground, and yes, grant them a rate increase to cover that cost, as it is to the betterment of their customers.
In the future, if all these power lines that have failed the consumer were underground, this problem, that has effected 70,000 consumers, would be avoided.