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Easy fix eludes power outage problems in US


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Bruce Wollenberg, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Minnesota who specializes in power systems, said it’s hard to tell if extended outages are more common than in years past. But the capacity for high-voltage transmission systems has not increased with demand, he said, in part because of the cost of moving power lines underground and the general distaste for having above-ground lines right outside homes.

"People don’t want power lines — period ...They don’t like the way they look, they don’t like a lot of things," Wollenberg said. "It’s universal across the country, and I think across the world. People don’t want power lines. They don’t want more power lines."

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Residents’ complaints about the latest outages have increased with their duration.

Kevin Fogg, a barber from the rural community of Jefferson, about 45 miles northwest of Washington, scoffed when asked if he’d be willing to pay Potomac Edison higher rates to prevent more outages like the one he’s been suffering through.

"I think it’s more than it should be already," Fogg said.

He said the utility company should do a better job of trimming trees and branches that threaten power lines.

"There’s a huge, dead tree hanging over our line and they said, ‘Well, we’re not going to cut it down,’" Fogg said. "It’s got to break first and knock the power line down before they’ll do anything about it. So I guess they won’t do any preventive maintenance — or at least not as much as they should."

Jean Cuseo, a middle-school art teacher from Jefferson, said she’s not sure if she’d be willing to pay more to prevent outages, even if that were an option.

"I’m pretty environmentally friendly. If I could live off the grid I would," she said.

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Kahn reported from New York. Associated Press writers Ray Henry in Atlanta and David Dishneau in Jefferson, Md., contributed to this report.



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