Lieberman Calls August Blackout “Entirely Avoidable”

WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Wednesday issued the following statement in response to the Department of Energy’s report on the August 14, 2003, blackout:

“The principal conclusion of the Department of Energy’s interim report on the August 14th blackout is that it was entirely avoidable. It was not caused by too much demand, or too little supply, or hot August weather, but in the best light by human error, and in the worst by human negligence.

“The report documents how a major utility company in Ohio — FirstEnergy — made mistake after mistake, beginning with its failure to maintain its transmission line rights-of-way, and its failure to understand what was happening to its own utility system or even to its own control room when computerized control systems failed to operate properly. “Weaknesses in the ability of the Midwest independent electric grid operator to oversee FirstEnergy left it unable to understand the rapid deterioration of the FirstEnergy transmission system or to take action to address it. “Unfortunately, this report does not examine the roles of institutions that were supposed to watch over FirstEnergy and the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) and the electric transmission grid, such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), or the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC). And as my hearings on the California energy crisis confirmed, even though FERC regulates the transmission grid and grants system operators, such as MISO, the authority it has to manage the grid, FERC continues to insist that it has no real responsibility for system reliability or blackouts like the one that occurred on August 14th. “While it may have been appropriate for FERC and NERC to be involved in this early fact-finding phase of the investigation, I call upon Secretary Abraham to ensure that the next phase of this investigation fully examines the roles of all of the institutional participants to understand why the regulatory system did not prevent this otherwise preventable catastrophe.” -30-