Plan aims to reduce blackouts

Proposals come from head of Energy Department


WASHINGTON -- Energy Secretary Bill Richardson will propose in a speech tomorrow six steps to reduce electricity disruptions in severe weather, including federal investigations of power blackouts such as the ones that hit New York and other cities this month, department officials say.

Richardson's speech is scheduled for a convention in San Francisco of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, whose members serve on state public service commissions.

In remarks prepared for delivery, Richardson says: "Clearly, we need to be concerned. Customers should not have to wonder whether the lights will go out the next time the thermometer hits 90 degrees."

Richardson will form a team of experts from within the Energy Department to investigate "major power outages," a department official said. These would be disruptions resulting from insufficient generation or transmission problems, not distribution problems.

Richardson will also call for a "regional summit" of governors, state public service commissioners and other state officials in the Northeast to discuss new transmission lines that can ease supply problems, overcoming local objections to high-voltage lines when they serve regional needs.

"It's an increasingly difficult issue," one department official said. "These things need to be looked at on a regional basis."

The department also will try to equip the federal government, which is the nation's largest electricity consumer, to be more helpful in times of tight supply.

"We really didn't have a government-wide plan for how to deal with these things," an official said.

Pub Date: 7/18/99

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