A congressional committee next week will try to light a candle on
what darkened millions of homes and businesses Aug. 14.
Gov. Bob Taft, FirstEnergy Corp. Chairman and CEO H. Peter Burg
and other Ohio officials, regulators and utility executives are
scheduled to testify before Congress about the cause of the Great
Blackout of 2003.
The hearings before the full House Energy and Commerce Committee
are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in the Rayburn House Office
Building in Washington, D.C. The witnesses have been asked by U.S.
Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., the committee chairman, to respond to
questions on what caused the blackout, what has been done to make
the electric grid safe and reliable, what prevented the blackout
from spreading further, and how the grid can be improved.
While investigators have cautioned that it will be weeks before
they have preliminary findings on what caused the historic blackout,
they continue to focus on problems in FirstEnergy's system in
northern Ohio as the triggering point. Transmission lines owned by
the Akron-based utility failed in the hours preceding the blackout
that left tens of millions without power in the Midwest and
Northeast and parts of Canada.
A joint U.S.-Canadian task force is collecting information on the
events leading up to the blackout. The investigation is pulling
together data from utilities and others.
Burg is scheduled to testify Thursday as part of a panel that
will include American Electric Power Chairman, President and CEO E.
Linn Draper and others.
``Obviously this is an ongoing process and we don't have all the
answers,'' FirstEnergy spokesman Ralph DiNicola said. FirstEnergy
has said that while its system was having problems before the
blackout, there is evidence that other parts of the electric grid
were having difficulties before FirstEnergy's system.
Besides Taft, other Ohioans set to speak Wednesday include Alan
Schriber, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, and
Brantley Eldridge, executive manager of the Canton-based East
Central Area Reliability Council.
Taft's office said the governor will urge federal lawmakers to
pass an energy bill that, among other things, includes mandatory
reliability standards for the transmission system. Taft will say the
bill should include mandatory reliability standards, incentives to
invest in the country's electricity grid, and reform of regional
transmission organizations that oversee electricity
Also scheduled to testify are New York Gov. George Pataki,
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission Chairman Patrick Wood, North American Electric
Reliability Council President Michehl Gent and others.
Three Ohio congressmen are on the energy and commerce committee:
Republican Paul Gillmor and Democrats Sherrod Brown and Ted