Power companies address issues from December’s winter storm

FRANKFORT, Ky (WTVQ)- It was during December’s severe winter storm that Kentuckians needed electricity the most. But thousands were without power in the hours afterwards with the weather resulting in rolling blackouts in parts of the state.

Power companies were on the hot seat Thursday, addressing the Kentucky House and Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

For about two hours, the committee demanded answers to issues they say had never happened before.

“This was the most forceful that came in in one afternoon. We did a lot of preparatory work, getting ready for it at our facilities,” says Jeff Sanderson, the vice president of field operations for Boardwalk Pipeline Partners.

Sanderson says crews took steps ahead of the storm but the severity of the storm was unexpected. Leaders from Boardwalk pipelines testified a control valve failed due to icing. That affected their ability to deliver gas to plants.

“We worked through that day and worked through the night trying to get this thawed out. We thawed one thing after another. Found that we had a little bit of damage to the control of this valve,” said Sanderson.

“We need to have the backbone to back you and stand up to federal over regulation and help you get the pipelines you need. So if one regulator fails, you have four more waiting so we don’t have somebody freezing to death in that household with somebody that’s disabled or two or three children. We can do better,” says Republican Senator Brandon Smith of Hazard.

Tennessee Valley Authority had their own issues. They say the drop in temperatures and the breadth of  the storm impacted their services.

“I think it would be wise for TVA to hear from people that you actually affect. I wanted to know and I still don’t have an answer to this question whether TVA can even honor its obligation to provide power. Because demand isn’t going to go down,” says Senator Whitney Westerfield of Hopkinsville.

Committee members say the biggest thing is preventing something like this from happening again. They say lawmakers are willing to help.

In the meantime, companies say they are reviewing their own operating procedures to reduce the risk of equipment failure going forward.

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