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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Michel Gent

Aired August 15, 2003 - 20:30   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: There have been conflicting reports and finger pointing over where the trouble first started. The latest suspect, a power line in Cleveland.
Michel Gent is the president of the North American Electric Reliability Council, or NERC, as it's called. It's an industry watchdog group.

Thanks very much, Mr. Gent, for joining us.

What do you believe? What you to suspect the problem was?

MICHEL GENT, NERC: I suspect that we had a lot of power flowing in many various directions due to a number of purchases and sales that were going on. We are putting the information together, and as you just reported, we compiled this list of events and the first occasion or the first event on the list was a transmission line in -- near Cleveland, Ohio. I stress, though, that there are many other transmission lines.

Before this event was completed, there were probably 100 transmission lines that relayed out of service to protect the lines themselves and also about 100 power plants that dropped off. So there is going to be a big analysis of this for putting together a team of experts to try to get to the bottom of this and find out just what we have to do to protect the system so this doesn't happen again.

BLITZER: So, Mr. Gent, this Erie loop we were showing the viewers, this picture, basically what you're suggesting, there was one problem with a transmission line. Then there was almost like a domino effect, things began to fall apart within seconds?

GENT: Yes. But it -- there were a number of events that occurred over an hour's period and then when the -- when it really started to go bad, we had the domino effect. It lasted about nine seconds. So it went very quickly. We need to find out what that -- what caused that.

BLITZER: Why was there no advance warning?

GENT: There is -- the system is operated by a set of reliability rules. And that's our job, to provide these rules. We're not quite sure yet whether the rules are inadequate or whether the operators were not following the rules. It has got to be one or the other. There is no need to have warning if the system operates correctly. There could have been a small interruption, a local area would go black, a very small area, but the rest of the grid would retain its integrity. In this case, it cascaded. We need to find out why.

BLITZER: Is there a short-term fix?

GENT: We don't know until we find the cause. But the short-term fix is to abide bit rules. And I'm certain that all the operators out there now are playing by the rules.

BLITZER: Mr. Gent, thank you very much for joining us.

GENT: You're very welcome.

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