W.Va. regulators seek answers from utilities

CHARLESTON (AP) — West Virginia regulators have ordered power and water companies statewide to assess their responses to powerful windstorms in late June that left hundreds of thousands of customers without power.

The state Public Service Commission on Friday also asked the utilities to explain how they will prepare for similar weather events.

A June 29 windstorm and subsequent storms left more than half a million West Virginians without power. Some had to wait nearly two weeks to have their power restored.

While the commission acknowledged the utilities worked long hours to restore service, it also noted that many power failures left customers sweltering in high temperatures, compounding the impact of the storms.

The Charleston Gazette reported Saturday the utilities have 30 days to submit their reports.

The commissioners are requiring responses from Appalachian Power Co., Wheeling Power Co., Monongahela Power Co., The Potomac Edison Co., Harrison Rural Electrification Association Inc., the Craig-Botetourt Electric Cooperative, the Black Diamond Power Co., the cities of New Martinsville and Philippi, West Virginia-American Water Co., Beckley Water Co. and Frontier Communications.

The PSC “encouraged” responses from the West Virginia Rural Water Association, West Virginia Small Public Utilities Association and the West Virginia Municipal League. Regulators want them to canvas the small utilities among their groups and respond to the PSC.

The PSC’s order outlines 11 issues the companies must report on. They range from estimating costs of restoration services to providing a timeline of restoration efforts.

Commissioners said their intent is to ease the impact of future outages, not to assign blame.

The PSC launched an investigation after a December 2009 storm left more than 334,000 West Virginians without power. The commission found utilities didn’t do enough to prevent and respond to widespread power outages such as clearing trees from rights of way before the storm.

It directed Appalachian Power and Allegheny Power to take significant steps to improve preparations and responses to future outages.

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