Saturday, March 1, 2008

Florida outage may spark probe by federal energy agency

The federal government wants to know why the failure of a single switch in a substation west of Miami led to a power outage that rolled across the state Tuesday afternoon and cut off electricity for more than 2 million people.

An official at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Wednesday that his agency was considering taking an active role in an examination of the blackout because a small-scale malfunction usually doesn't have such far-reaching effects.

"When you have any incident that knocks off 2.5 million people, it obviously grabs your attention," said Joe McClelland, director of the Washington-based agency's office of electric reliability.

The commission probably will decide by the end of the week whether it will assign its own investigators to work with the nonprofit Florida Reliability Coordinating Council to analyze the power failure, which started at a Florida Power & Light Co. substation and affected 1.2 million homes and businesses.

Depending on what the agencies find, the analysis could lead to a formal investigation and fines of up to $1 million per violation.


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