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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Spokesman For Con Edison Discusses Reenergizing The System

Aired August 14, 2003 - 18:56   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John. Thanks.
And the good news is the power is slowly getting up -- or coming back to normal, I guess you could say, getting up and running there in New York City and throughout the other areas affected.

With us on the phone now, Mike Clendenin, the Con Edison spokesperson. Mike, can you hear me OK? Hello? Hello?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello?

PHILLIPS: Hello. I'm looking for Mike Clendenin. Did we get the wrong phone line here?

MIKE CLENDENIN, SPOKESMAN, CON EDISON: Hello?

PHILLIPS: Hi, Mike. It's Kyra Phillips. You're live on CNN. Are you with me?

CLENDENIN: Yes, I'm with you. Hi.

PHILLIPS: Terrific. Great. Thank you. Listen, we want to try and clear something up. When this first happened just after 4:00 Eastern time, there was talk of possibly a fire breaking out there at Con Edison. Did that indeed happen or not?

CLENDENIN: No, it did not happen. There was no fire. What some people saw was black smoke from one of the facilities on 14th Street in Manhattan. Sometimes when a facility like that can go down, you will see some smoke come out of it. But that has nothing to do with what took place today.

PHILLIPS: OK. So there was talk -- as a matter of fact, Mayor Michael Bloomberg came forward and said we're still trying to find out how this power failure occurred. We don't know if it happened here in New York, which I'm assuming would be there at Con Edison, or did it happen in Ottawa, at the power system there, the -- I'm blanking on the name right now. I apologize.

CLENDENIN: Yes.

PHILLIPS: You know -- help me again with -- the Niagara...

CLENDENIN: Yes. The -- right. Earlier reports about the system possibly coming from the Niagara Mohawk.

PHILLIPS: Thank you. Niagara Mohawk. It was on the tip of my tongue. Thank you. Tell me where it was coming from. Do we know yet?

CLENDENIN: Well, it was clearly -- it's pretty clear, at this point, it was somewhere from either upstate New York or Canada. And it was a problem that, as we all know by now, affected a great deal of the Eastern seaboard and the Northeast region. So our engineers have mobilized, as we do in many drills, like -- we plan for all sorts of scenarios. We're here at headquarters, and we've got crews out in the field, ready to go and try to re-energize the system. It's a deliberate, careful process that we must do properly, to make sure that as we bring the system back, as we bring the power back, that we do it so that we don't damage the system any further.

PHILLIPS: All right, so Mike, can you explain to us -- they were talking about this Niagara Mohawk power grid being overloaded and also by-passing a number of safety systems, too, that are supposed to prevent a system like this to be overloaded. We had the energy -- former energy secretary Bill Richardson on, now the governor of New Mexico saying, Well, what do you expect? It's a third-world grid. Explain to us, is that what the problem was here? Is this just an old system that became overloaded and it's time to do something about it? Or was there some type of natural occurrence that affected this?

CLENDENIN: I wish I could. I really couldn't respond to, you know, that -- those comments right now. Right now, we're focused on getting the power back on. The grid is an interconnected grid throughout the Northeast, as it is in other parts of the country. There are many interlocking grids, which not only sometimes things like this could happen, but they also are there to help neighboring states and others during major heat waves. So I really would refer you to our state grid operator or someone to respond to that. Right now, our engineers and our focus is getting the power back on to New York City and Westchester County.

PHILLIPS: All right. And real quickly before I let you go, because we have to move on, are you agreeing with the Department of Homeland Security right now in the fact that this was more than likely a naturally occurring event and not an act of terrorism?

CLENDENIN: Well, certainly, we take our information from them. We take our lead from them. And we have no information on our end, on our system, that this would have anything to do with an act of terrorism.

PHILLIPS: Mike Clendenin, Con Edison spokesperson, thank you for clearing up that information.

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