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Garrett Bill Would Hold ComEd Accountable

Task force of municipal officials drafts white paper for state senator to turn into legislation.

When called a meeting in July to bring municipal officials and ComEd executives together to resolve some of the problems arising from severe summer storms,  asked to attend. 

Little did Hileman know he would be volunteering to head a task force examining ComEd's response to outages. On Tuesday, he and others presented the results of their work during a news conference sponsored by the Northwest Municipal Conference in Chicago: a white paper that Garrett hopes to turn into legislation to hold ComEd accountable for its actions. 

More storms, more problems

Hileman served on a similar task force three years ago after an earlier series of storms and thought some progress was made. But when Glenview's Village Hall lost power for more than a day in June, he realized he was mistaken. 

“The problems were virtually the same,” Hileman said. ”The one thing they did was assign external affairs personnel to each municipality. They were of little help. ComEd was unable to provide information for two or three days.” 

A new, better plan

This time the task force designed a plan for ComEd with input from the municipalities. Unlike previous efforts, ComEd did not have the opportunity to shape the discussion, according to Hileman. 

According to the new plan, when municipalities determine an area outage emergency exists, ComEd must establish an operations center staffed continually with all available methods of communication including fax, telephone, texting and email. 

Garrett, who was flanked by and explained she had given the white paper to the Legislative Research Bureau (LRB) in Springfield two weeks ago to be drafted into legislation. The LRB is a bipartisan agency that drafts all legislation for the General Assembly, according to May. 

also worked with ComEd in the past to resolve issues. One of the things that motivated him to join the task force was a communications failure by the utility. 

“I received a message from them telling me a crew was at the site,” Frenzer said. “What they didn’t know was I was standing on the site and no one was there.” 

Unlike companies like UPS and agencies like most suburban police forces, ComEd is unable to track its vehicles. 

“The system avoids liability,” Frenzer said, explaining the corporate rationale. 

Holding ComEd accountable

A number of people who spoke, like Northwest Municipal Conference Chairman and , and Bannockburn Mayor Jim Barkemeyer, want ComEd held accountable. 

Rotering told the group how the Highland Park Police Department was without power for four days and the main fire station for three. 

In Bannockburn, Barkemeyer explained how the Village removed a live wire from the Village’s main north south street that would have taken three days if it waited for ComEd. 

“A citizen said ‘I’ll get my electrician’ and he wound the wire around a pole,” Barkemeyer said. “Our police commissioner took a chain saw and removed the tree from the road.” 

Responsibility is part of the plan. 

“If they don’t perform they will lose their exemption from liability,” Frenzer said of the proposal that would require ComEd to reimburse customers for failures that cause a refrigerator full of food to spoil. Profitability will also be reduced. 

'Not tough enough'

Garrett has a clear idea of what she wants to see in the bill. She recognizes it may ultimately be part of larger legislation that includes the implementation of the smart grid. The smart grid legislation which was vetoed by Gov. Patrick Quinn last month. 

“The bill will require accountability, reliability and communication,” Garrett said. “Everything we have seen shows more has to be done to insure the ComEd bill meets the expectations of the community and the customers.” 

Accountability is a worry Garrett, May, Nekritz and Rotering discussed before the meeting. They want the (ICC) to have the authority to enforce the new requirements. 

“We have to clarify the ICC can come in and deal with loses,” May said. “Who is supposed to follow up on this (complaints against ComEd)? It should be the ICC. The ICC needs to be more consumer oriented.” 

Some have argued the ICC can only regulate rates. Garrett thinks the agency has more authority and ComEd recognizes this. 

“ComEd went to them about exemption from damages,” she said, referring to an effort by the utility to avoid paying for spoiled food. “The ICC has not been tough enough.”

John Temmerman October 12, 2011 at 02:40 PM
I strongly support this bill. ComEd should be held accountable for their fragile, failing systems and incompetent storm recovery procedures.
Earl Weiss October 12, 2011 at 03:03 PM
I'll supoport this bill so long as municipalities assume the same responsibility for issues caused by severe weather ranging from flooded basements and streets as well as roads blocked by snow and downed trees.
Clark Kent October 12, 2011 at 03:33 PM
"The LRB is a bipartisan agency that drafts all legislation for the General Assembly, according to May." Bipartisan? Here's what it does: "The Legislative Reference Bureau was created in 1913, the first of the modern legislative service agencies in Illinois. The Bureau carries out a wide range of functions relating to the legal and technical operation of the General Assembly. The primary task of the Bureau is the drafting and preparation of legislation, including bills, amendments, resolutions, and conference committee reports... Attorneys employed by the Bureau provide legal advice and drafting services to legislators of both parties and both houses, working on a nonpartisan basis in a confidential lawyer-client relationship. The Bureau's drafting staff also includes paralegal professionals who draft resolutions. .." Without the valuable LRB the sessions in Springfield would be more pitiable than are they currently. See http://ilga.gov/commission/lrb/lrbabout.htm . The LRB is NON-PARTISAN. It is a service specifically for the legislators. Here's another politician using her own words indiscriminately and trying to suck in the unwary. More grandstanding...her concern about accountability, and all that, should be put into LEGISLATIVE BEHAVIOR. She should explain why SHE didn't do this sooner.She's been in Springpatch since January 1999. Everything done in crisis mode. Always a day late, a dollar short and pretending to be on the forefront of "leadership."
michael October 12, 2011 at 04:01 PM
Ah Clark Kent... bipartisan means both parties..thus your answer that it works with both parties in Springfield means it is bipartisan. Also it is for the legislators and for the legislators, so I do not understand your comments. I agree they are (legislators) late to the table and in crisis mode too much and this issue should have been addressed alot sooner, but keep on track with what you say.
Clark Kent October 12, 2011 at 04:55 PM
BI-partisan means TWO parties. NON-partisan means NO PARTY AFFILIATION. Government operations are NON-PARTISAN. There's no such thing as a bipartisan highway, a bipartisan sewer system, a bipartisan police force anymore than there is a bipartisan LRB. Quite sui generis. Right? I dealt with the LRB for many years and never had a problem with it. The staff is professional, dutiful and dedicated. These men and women do the grunt work for those arrogant semi-sonambulistic solons who are always "developing issues," "meeting the needs of the constituents," playing cards, watching TV, gorging themselves at local eateries (compliments of the you-know-whos), shopping at White Oaks and other extremely important personal duties. I use correct words and I use words correctly.
RonnieTheLimoDriver October 12, 2011 at 05:56 PM
Hows your job with comed working out Earl? Our local municipalities have a great track record of dealing with challenges, unlike comed. They are also not for profit enterprises.
Louis G. Atsaves October 12, 2011 at 06:01 PM
ComEd needs to get more people to work on the ground. They are a complete failure at this and no legislation establishing additional liability will solve the problem. I had a tree that pulled an electrical wire to within 4 feet of my garage where it sat for 6 days BURNING while ComEd lied to me and my neighbors with comments like "we'll be right out there." When they showed up on a Sunday afternoon to deal with it, a supervisor was demanding the crew report back to their station as she was tired of authorizing "overtime." Too bad for her we all heard her complaints while standing in my backyard. I still have the burnt log in my garage as proof. Have ComEd fix their service deficiencies first before giving them their "SmartGrid" and rate increases. We pay the among the highest rates in the country and our service from them is rated the shoddiest or at the very bottom.

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