CALIFORNIA governor orders more warning for blackouts

Friday, May 25th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ California's power grid officials and utilities will be required to let the public know up to two days in advance if rolling blackouts are likely to hit.

Gov. Gray Davis said Thursday that he will order managers who oversee the state's power grid to issue blackout alerts 48 hours in advance of outages.

Utilities, which decide where to cut power, will give a 24-hour warning that includes which neighborhoods will be hit. Grid managers will then issue a final blackout warning one hour before ordering blackouts.

``If blackouts are going to occur, there's no reason to keep the public in the dark,'' Davis said. ``We've had as little as two minutes notice before blackouts. Now, a two-minute warning may work for the National Football League, but it won't work for California consumers and businesses in this state.''

Davis made his announcement days after consulting with Chicago officials, who are able to provide similar warnings there.

The governing board of the Independent System Operators, which oversees California's power grid, had proposed a plan to give 30 minutes warning.

It had said it did not want to alarm people when there was still a chance that a last-minute purchase of power could stave off blackouts. The utilities had also resisted giving warnings, saying they did not want to tip off burglars.

But Davis said the longer advance warning will give law enforcement time to get to neighborhoods so they can increase patrols.

The Independent System Operator said it would comply with his order.

``There may be days that despite our best efforts the dynamic nature of the California grid outpaces our efforts at communications,'' said Michael Kahn, chairman of the ISO board of governors. ``We will do our best to minimize those days and we will always strive to keep the power on in California.''

Beginning May 30, the ISO also plans to issue warnings similar to weather advisories 24 hours before expected blackouts.

Southern California Edison, which serves much of Southern California, also will comply with the governor's request, said Brian Bennett, vice president of external affairs.

Californians have seen six days of rolling blackouts this year and have been warned to expect more this summer.