U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham announced yesterday that executives of electric companies, the Independent Systems Operators (ISOs) and the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) will work with the U.S.-Canada Task Force as it begins its investigation into the cause of the recent blackouts that affected North America.

Sunday, Secretary Abraham announced the DOE has dispatched teams of investigators to the Northeast and Upper Midwest to begin on-site investigations into the cause of the recent power outages.

Secretary Abraham conducted two conference calls late Monday with energy company CEOs as well as the heads of the various independent system operators in blackout-affected areas to urge their cooperation with the DOE investigation. All parties pledged their assistance, and it was specifically agreed during the conference call that NERC’s investigation would supplement and contribute to the U.S.-Canada Task Force investigation.

"Using my authority under the Energy Supply and Environmental Coordination Act and the Federal Energy Administration Act, DOE will immediately begin collecting information and interviewing appropriate individuals - at the utilities, the North American Electric Reliability Council and the independent systems operators - to investigate the causes of the recent outages," Secretary Abraham said. "It is important that all parties preserve all relevant data so that it may be made available for review and inspection. We are pleased that these regional groups have agreed to support the investigation into the cause of the recent outages."

Secretary Abraham will meet with Canadian Minister of Natural Resources Herb Dhaliwal on Wednesday in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., to finalize a work plan and begin moving forward with the United States/Canada Task Force established by President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Chretien on Aug. 15. The Joint Task Force is charged with identifying the causes of the recent power outage that affected North America and with making recommendations on preventing future outages.

"Reliable electric power is the lifeblood of the economy for both the United States and Canada," Secretary Abraham said. "It’s more than just a personal convenience - it’s essential to the health and safety of our citizens. We owe our citizens an explanation of this incident and an assurance that steps will be taken to address the cause."