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Editor's Notebook: CL&P COO Butler Doesn't Do Company Any Favors

November 5, 2011 by John Rook

Feeding frenzies are usually most closely associated with sharks.
Throw some rather bloody food in the water and, if there are multiple sharks in the area, they will eventually descend on the tasty treats and chew everything up in record time.
Well, right about now, Connecticut Light and Power COO Jeffrey Butler must feel like a leg of lamb thrown into the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
You see, Butler has been the face of CL&P this last week, and this was the wrong time to be the “face” of that particular electric company. As each day has passed and hundreds of thousands of residents have remained without power, Butler's daily “updates” have become more and more tense.
People don't like hearing the same thing over and over again, and Butler has stuck to his script, no matter the situation on the ground.
As town officials complain en masse that CL&P is taking too long to do its job, Butler has continued to insist that the company and its workers are doing a “great job.” As municipalities bemoan the fact that there is little communication as to what is happening, and when it might happen, Butler continues to insist that communication is “great.”
And, as thousands scream for their power to be restored, Butler remains steadfast in stating that while he understands everyone's frustration, the utility company is doing everything it can.
He might want to take a few minutes and write up a couple of fresh lines before he heads back in front of the press this weekend.
The fact of the matter is, Butler hasn't done his company any favors. Granted, it was going to be an impossible task for anyone to calm the populace as restoration efforts dragged on for days. But, Butler seemed particularly inept at calming any nerves or reassuring Connecticut residents that his company had done everything necessary to prepare.
At some point throughout this entire process, Butler has seemingly said something to annoy virtually everyone. He has insisted that the company has enough utility crews to handle normal operations, which was disputed by the CL&P workers themselves, who insisted that there aren't enough employees to handle the massive amount of power lines owned by CL&P.
Then, Butler mentioned that his company was “surprised” by the snowfall amounts that came down and, later, seemed to cast blame on forecasters in the state when he suggested that the storm “came earlier than was predicted” and was “more intense” than advertised. Local weathermen immediately responded by suggesting that Butler must have been watching weather predictions for other regions, since the forecast for this storm was nearly spot on.
And, of course, Butler was forced to admit that CL&P had still not paid some bills associated with the cleanup efforts after Tropical Storm Irene but insisted that the delay in getting out-of-state crews to come help in restoration had nothing to do with that fact. Of course, it was reported by numerous media outlets that at least some utility companies had withheld help because the bills had remained unpaid.
Obviously, the major problems with CL&P go well beyond public relation snafus. However, CL&P would do well to send someone else up to the podium the next time something happens of this magnitude. Jeffrey Butler has become the face of the Autumn Nor'easter and it certainly isn't the look CL&P is going for.

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