Energy & Environment

Energy oversight body to pay $16M penalty for 2011 blackout

An electricity grid oversight body will pay $16 million to settle a dispute with the federal government over its role in a 2011 power outage in California, Arizona and Mexico. 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced its settlement with the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) on Tuesday.

{mosads}WECC was the “reliability coordinator” for the western United States when a transmission line failure triggered a blackout on Sept. 8, 2011. More than 5 million people in southern California, Arizona and Baja California, Mexico lost power during the incident, according to FERC, some for up to 12 hours. 

“The disturbance occurred near rush hour, on a business day, snarling traffic for hours,” WECC wrote in an overview of the incident. “Schools and businesses closed, some flights and public transportation were disrupted, water and sewage pumping stations lost power, and beaches were closed due to sewage spills. Millions went without air conditioning on a hot day.”

FERC accused WECC of violating nine reliability standards for its role in the event, and on Tuesday, WECC agreed to pay a $16 million civil penalty. Most of the fine — $13 million — “will be invested in reliability enhancement measures that go above and beyond mitigation of the violation,” FERC said in a news release. WECC did not admit or deny fault for the incident. 

Federal regulators had already collected more than $21 million in penalties for the power outage, FERC said. Its agreement with WECC is the “sixth and final settlement” related to the blackout. 

Tags Arizona California Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
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