Final Report on the August 14, 2003 Blackout in the United States and Canada: Causes and Recommendations

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On August 14, 2003, large portions of the Midwest and Northeast United States and Ontario, Canada, experienced an electric power blackout. The outage affected an area with an estimated 50 million people and 61,800 megawatts (MW) of electric load in the states of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and the Canadian province of Ontario. The blackout began a few minutes after 4:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time (16:00 EDT), and power was not restored for 4 days in some parts of the United States. Parts of Ontario suffered rolling blackouts for more than a week before full power was restored. Estimates of total costs in the United States range between $4 billion and $10 billion (U.S. dollars).1 In Canada, gross domestic product was down 0.7% in August, there was a net loss of 18.9 million work hours, and manufacturing shipments in Ontario were down $2.3 billion (Canadian dollars).2 On August 15, President George W. Bush and then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien directed that a joint U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force be established to investigate the causes of the blackout and ways to reduce the possibility of future outages. They named U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham and Herb Dhaliwal, Minister of Natural Resources, Canada, to chair the joint Task Force. (Mr. Dhaliwal was later succeeded by Mr. John Efford as Minister of Natural Resources and as co-chair of the Task Force.) Three other U.S. representatives and three other Canadian representatives were named to the Task Force. The U.S. members were Tom Ridge, Secretary of Homeland Security; Pat Wood III, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; and Nils Diaz, Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Canadian members were Deputy Prime Minister John Manley, later succeeded by Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan; Kenneth Vollman, Chairman of the National Energy Board; and Linda J. Keen, President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

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