Taft, Campbell Ask For Federal Aid; Energy Secretary Visits

Blackout Costs Cleveland At Least $2 Million

CLEVELAND - Gov. Bob Taft is now asking for federal aid to help reimburse the state for costs associated with Thursday's power outage.

NewsChannel5's Angie Lau reported that Taft also met with his advisers as well as national and local leaders Wednesday in an effort to prevent such an incident from ever happening again.

Taft requested a presidential emergency declaration through the Federal Emergency Management Agency that would allow state and local governmental entities and qualified nonprofit organizations in Cuyahoga County and Ohio to be reimbursed for emergency protective measures up to 75 percent of their cost.

Some of those costs include overtime for public safety forces, equipment rental, removal of health and safety hazards, and activation of National Guard troops.

The blackout cost an estimated $4 billion to $6 billion throughout the affected states.

The city of Cleveland estimated the loss so far from the power outage is $1.8 million to $2 million. Mayor Jane Campbell is still working with the county and suburbs to come up with an overall regional number.

During the blackout, Cleveland called in all off-duty police officers, brought in firefighters on overtime, and had water, utility, and other employees working around the clock until lights were back on and water was running Friday.

Tourism also took a hit. Downtown businesses were closed and travelers were stranded at the airport.

The mayor has also asked for federal financial help to pay for it all.

Energy Secretary Visits

Meanwhile, the investigation into who's to blame for last week's power outage is really starting to heat up in Ohio.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham visited Columbus Wednesday to meet with Campbell, Taft and other lawmakers to discuss the outage. Abraham said there needs to be one ultimate finding by a single investigation as to what led to the massive blackout, and that investigation starts in northeast Ohio.

Taft cut his vacation short to join in the half-hour face-to-face briefing. Taft wanted local and state lawmakers to talk with Abraham about how they are going to go about the business of figuring out what happened.

So far, investigators have pointed to three transmission lines in northern Ohio that shut down Thursday afternoon as a possible cause of the widespread outage.

Abraham said like everyone, he wants answers, but he said it will take an unspecified amount of time. He said there is a huge amount of territory to cover, including thousands of miles of transmission lines. He also said there is a mountain of data to go through.

"I've been somewhat concerned about the kind of speculation that has gone on," Abraham said. "We don't know yet. There are hundreds of thousands of miles of transmission grid in the affected area. There are (more than) 1,000 power-generating locations. I think it's premature to speculate about what should happen if we might, at the end of an investigation, conclude that somebody is blameworthy."

Abraham was referring to the accusations that FirstEnergy is to blame for the outage. He said it's just too soon to know that yet.

The Department of Energy and an industry watchdog group, the North American Electric Reliability Council, are working on ways to prevent a recurrence, such as creating mandatory reliability standards and sanctions.

The energy secretary will travel to Detroit later Wednesday to meet with Canadian counterparts. A joint task force will be set up to investigate how the outage happened and to make sure it won't happen again.

FirstEnergy's License

Rep. Dennis Kucinich filed a complaint Wednesday with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, urging it to revoke FirstEnergy Corp.'s operating license.

Kucinich claimed the company is not providing reasonable and adequate service. He blamed company mismanagement and putting profit above public interest.

"This complaint is not just about the blackout. It is about the history of a utility which has failed to properly serve the people of northeast Ohio," Kucinich said.

First Energy calls the complaint premature since the investigation into what happened has not yet assigned any blame.

Kucinich, a Cleveland Democrat, has clashed with power companies since he was mayor in the 1970s.

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