No acceptable reason for massive blackout

What others say

Posted: Monday, December 01, 2003

A three-month international investigation concluded yesterday that the Aug. 14 blackout that crippled much of the East Coast was ''largely preventable.''

In laying most of the blame at the feet of FirstEnergy, an Akron, Ohio, based utility, the U.S.-Canadian task force concluded, among other things, that the nation's fourth-largest utility should do a better job of tree trimming around its power lines.

If the entire East Coast can be blacked out by the wrong thunderstorm and some fallen branches, just imagine what a terrorist could do.

Incredible as it seems, the blackout, which would affect 50 million people, began when a single high-voltage power line near Cleveland went down. Then, two other FirstEnergy lines crashed. Within seven minutes of these initial events, 263 power plants would go dark. People from eight states and Canada were forced to go primitive for hours.

Furthermore, the report contended that a group charged with overseeing power flow across the upper Midwest was using outdated information and couldn't identify the extent of the problem before it was too late. The task force cited human error and equipment failures, including computer problems, as contributing factors.

All of this is unacceptable. Power blackouts are not mere inconveniences or excuses to eat by candlelight. The Aug. 14 outage, the nation's worst ever, caused an estimated $6 billion in damages and other losses. ...

The report must serve as a wake-up call for accountability. Those responsible should be monitored and compelled to prove they are not in the dark when it comes to providing the smooth flow of electricity. The carelessness of a single utility can never again be allowed to pull the plug on the East Coast.

The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y - Nov. 20



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