In response to power outages that seem to be occurring with increasing frequency, an Upper St. Clair resident said he is considering filing a formal complaint with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
During the citizens’ comments portion of the township commissioners’ informational meeting Monday, Dr. Frank Gaudio discussed his frustration with the services provided by West Penn Power.
“In the last three or four years, power has gone out innumerable times,” he said. “It doesn’t go out when there’s a storm. It goes out a day or two after there’s a storm.”
Citing what he considers to be problems with the infrastructure that delivers electricity to West Penn customers, the 41-year Blairmont Drive resident said the power has undertaken some improvements in his neighborhood. But in response to the outages, he has lodged two informal complaints with the PUC and could follow up with a more serious filing.
“I’m here to see if you’re going to be partners with me, my neighbor and the rest of the citizens in Upper St. Clair, and see what we can do about establishing a reliable, safe power grid,” Gaudio told commissioners.
His reference was to Michael Hanna, another longtime Blairmont Drive resident, who spoke briefly in support of his neighbor’s contemplated action.
Township solicitor Irving Firman said he plans to examine documents provided by Gaudio and study the PUC’s requirements for parties joining in complaints.
“At that point, I’ll be in a position to evaluate what the township’s role could be, legally,” Firman said.
Mark Christie, president of the board of commissioners, joined his fellow elected officials in expressing encouragement to Gaudio.
“I certainly support your position and offer the support of the township to press forward with your case to the extent that we can,” Christie said. “I think it’s very reasonable to expect to have dependable electric service.”
Commissioner Robert Orchowski said the power company has taken action in that regard.
“There have been a lot of improvements made. They’ve put in isolation switches so that when there is a major windstorm, they can isolate sections and get the power back on,” he said. “I think the township has a good track record of working with West Penn. I don’t think that it will fall on deaf ears.”
In fact, representatives of West Penn Power – one of the 10 regulated distribution companies of FirstEnergy Corp., based in Akron, Ohio – gave a presentation during the commissioners’ Jan. 27 meeting in response to local power outages.
“They reviewed a number of projects that were under way that were intended to upgrade the various areas that feed Upper St. Clair Township,” Matt Serakowski, township manager, said.
He said, though, that oversight of the power company “does not fall under the purview of the township.”
Because lapses in power hardly are relegated to Upper St. Clair, Gaudio suggested officials from nearby South Hills municipalities consider banding together in taking measures to address the problem.
Following the commissioners’ meeting, he expressed concerns about residents who activate gasoline-powered generators during outages. In late August, eight deaths in two states, including those of a family of five in Louisiana, were attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning related to the use of generators when power was lost because of the effects of Hurricane Laura.