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Calif. Legislative Committee Seeks Answers For Blackout

Aired 10/26/11 on KPBS News.

Two California State Assembly Committees are trying to find out more about the events surrounding a blackout which darkened all of San Diego County in September.

Utility officials said last month's blackout that turned off the lights on seven million people in the Southwest U.S. and Mexico was not caused by a single utility worker doing a minor repair job as originally thought.

Stephen Berberich said investigators have discovered that at least twenty problems took place across five grids within an eleven minute period. Berberich is president and CEO of the California Independent System Operator, which operates the state's wholesale power system.

Two California State Assembly Committees are trying to find out more about the events surrounding the blackout which darkened all of San Diego County in September. Federal investigators and authorities from California and Arizona public utility companies said at a legislative hearing Wednesday that it is too soon in the probe to pinpoint the cause behind the cascading outages. The hearing is underway in San Diego and KPBS Reporter Jill Replogle is there.

REPLOGLE: Right now the balancing authority, people in charge of ensuring that the western grid is operating and the utility managers are discussing what exactly happened – what were the events leading up to the blackout. And we may got to what they might have done better to restore power after the blackout.

JOYCE: What do the assembly members hope to get out of going through all these events leading up to the blackout in September?

REPLOGLE: Well I think it became pretty clear at the beginning that they're not going to get any answers today about why this happened. That’s an investigation that’s going to take a lot more time. But more what this is about is to look at what the response was and also look at some of the other things that happened around the blackout, like wireless communications not being so good. People couldn’t use their cell phones, and so why was that happening? Why did sewage get dumped into the ocean? So looking at some of these other related things that happened with the blackout.

JOYCE: KPBS Reporter Jill Replogle covering the State Assembly Committee hearing in San Diego about last month's electricity blackout.

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