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AEP ready for state regulators to review forced power outages

Po
Andy Chow
/
Statehouse News Bureau

Ohio utility regulators are looking into forced power outages in which a quarter of a million customers of AEP lost power after severe storms last month.

AEP President and COO Mark Reitter said its transmission organization is "working hard" to understand what happened after storms on June 13 took down over 350 poles and 2,100 wires, followed by several days with temperatures above 90 degrees.

“We have 40-year employees that never experienced these load management emergencies in Ohio particularly in an urban center like Columbus before, so we’re learning through it," Reitter said at a press conference at a south Columbus community action agency. "But I will tell you, we have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to make the infrastructure that serves Columbus resilient and as reliable as possible, and that's going to continue."

IMPACT Community Action hosted the press conference to share information for low-income residents who lost food and need assistance after those outages.

The Mid-Ohio Food Bank said it can't quantify the loss from the power outage, but said almost a thousand families came to its pantry in Grove City on the Tuesday at the height of the outages and over 400 families at its Columbus-based market.

AEP won't reimburse for spoiled food. Reitter said in Ohio, utilities are not liable for "acts of God." But AEP donated $1 million to local organizations such as IMPACT Community Action and the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio will hold a briefing July 13 with AEP and the regional transmission organization, PJM Interconnection.

Critics have said AEP forced outages in low-income neighborhoods, but AEP has said that was a call by PJM.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.