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Electric Co-op Tallies 'Staggering' Costs Of Holiday Ice Storm

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Vermont Electric Cooperative
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A VEC contractor works to restore power by breaking ice off power lines. December's storm cost VEC roughly $7.4 million.

A small Vermont utility says last month’s ice storm in the northern part of the state will go down as the biggest storm in its history. Vermont Electric Cooperative responded to nearly 60,000 power outages over the course of the storm, which hit during the holiday week. Some customers experienced multiple outages.

The bulk of the damage to power lines from downed trees and heavy branches was in Franklin County, primarily a stretch from Westford north to Richford, a town on the Canadian border. 

CEO David Hallquist says the total cost of power restoration came to roughly $7.4 million, a huge increase over previous storms.

"Our biggest storm prior to this was $1.8 million," Hallquist said. "So it’s pretty staggering in terms of cost.”

As an electric cooperative, VEC qualifies for FEMA disaster funds, which could help cover all but about $2 million in cleanup costs.

"Our biggest storm prior to this was $1.8 million. So [$7.4 million] is pretty staggering in terms of cost." - David Hallquist, VEC CEO

Hallquist says the utility plans to absorb those costs through various efficiencies, and hopes to avoid any rate increases:

"To give you an idea, that could be about 3 percent in rates if we did it on a one-year period," Hallquist said. "Now of course we wouldn’t do it on a one-year period. We’d try to minimize rate impact. But we’re also going to defer it as long as we can to see if we can do something in our other areas to absorb those costs.”

Last month, Vermont's largest utility, Green Mountain Power, announced that it was going to add a "storm surcharge" to customer bills in 2014 to cover costs that GMP incurred responding to storms last year.