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Utility officials still in dark about cause of blackout

October 27, 2011 |  7:22 am

Officials are still not sure what caused a massive Southern California blackout in September
Utility officials are still not sure what caused the massive Southern California blackout in September and why backup systems meant to prevent such an event failed, a legislative committee hearing was told Wednesday.

The president and chief executive officer of the California Independent System Operator, the agency that oversees most of the state's electrical grid, said the transmission system that brings power to Southern California should have been able to absorb the mistake of a single power company employee in Arizona who flipped the wrong switch.

Stephen Berberich told two state Assembly committees meeting at San Diego City Hall that 20 separate events over a 10-minute span plunged 7 million people in the Southwest into darkness Sept. 8, some for nearly 12 hours.

But unraveling why it happened may take several more months to figure out, he said.

"There are still many things we do not know," said Dennis Robinson, president and chief executive officer of Arizona Public Service Co.

Assemblyman Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) said the much-anticipated hearing left him feeling confused and less informed.


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-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: San Diego during the blackout on Sept. 8. Credit: Associated Press