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News

Ohio outages caused by trees, equipment not new for utility

August 21, 2003

BY JIM KRANE AND LIZ SIDOTI

CLEVELAND--The electric utility at the center of the blackout inquiry already faced official complaints for earlier power outages blamed on outdated equipment and trees too close to power lines, public records show. Those failures in a Cleveland suburb are among some of the same problems linked to last week's massive outages.

Technical glitches also dogged FirstEnergy Corp. in January, when parts of its computer network--including machines monitoring its nuclear plant--were brought down by the ''slammer'' computer worm, plant spokesman Richard Wilkins said Wednesday.

Some experts said the trigger for last Thursday's blackout may stem from FirstEnergy's borrowing a large amount of power from other Midwest utilities. The system may have collapsed when a FirstEnergy generating plant and several power transmission lines failed, snuffing lights from Detroit to New York City to Canada, the experts said.

Tom Kraynak, manager of operations and resources for the Canton, Ohio-based East Central Area Reliability Council, said that scenario is one among many that investigators are considering.

In Detroit, U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham met with his Canadian counterpart for the first time to discuss their joint investigation of the blackout.

Herb Dhaliwal, the minister of natural resources, said: ''We are committed to working to make sure we have some of those answers as quickly as possible.''

Abraham, who briefed Ohio officials earlier, declined to speculate on causes.

''We want to gather the facts and we want to determine what happened,'' Abraham said when asked whether FirstEnergy's power borrowing may have contributed to the crash.

Meanwhile, FirstEnergy warned rolling blackouts may be needed in the Cleveland area and called on its customers to take steps to reduce their power consumption.

According to a complaint lodged in June with the Ohio Public Utilities Commission, a FirstEnergy subsidiary in the Cleveland suburb of Solon is being blamed for power outages in May and June that lasted for as long as seven hours. Solon filed the complaint against Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co., after FirstEnergy failed to halt the outages, which left hundreds of homes and businesses without power, said David Kovass, an attorney for Solon. Inspections pointed to the need to trim trees around transmission lines, Kovass said.

AP





 
 












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