Columbus civic leaders continued to seek answers Thursday about how AEP decided which neighborhoods to cut power to this week and whether appropriate steps were taken to notify customers in advance of the outages.
The NAACP Columbus chapter again questioned AEP Thursday, calling for additional answers as to how the utility determines areas that will be without service, and whether AEP notified residents, governments and social service agencies prior to the shutdown. The questions followed statements from NAACP leaders Wednesday raising concerns that areas in Columbus affected by the outage included many low-income and minority neighborhoods.
“The NAACP’s concern is that these outages will add to the growing list of health, environmental and crime rates in these communities,” the NAACP said in a statement Thursday. “We also need to know what this community can expect moving forward in these dog days of summer.”
City of Columbus officials also contacted AEP about the outages and the direct impact on those poorer neighborhoods, city spokeswoman Melanie Crabill said Thursday.
“We asked AEP the same question because we were being asked by residents,” Crabill said. “AEP assured us that they based load shedding on circuit locations, not neighborhoods.”
Ohio Democratic lawmakers from the Columbus area also sought answers from AEP Thursday, writing in a letter that the utility has an obligation to provide customers access to services and to communicate planned outages “to limit the human and financial costs shouldered by families, cities and people with medical needs.”
The letter included a list of questions for AEP and was signed by Democratic state representatives from Franklin County, including Kristin Boggs, Rich Brown, Latyna Humphrey, Dontavius Jarrells, David Leland, Mary Lightbody, Beth Liston, Adam Miller, and Allison Russo.
“We find it troubling that AEP has no issue with customer notifications when bills are due, but when customers are faced with historic heat, limited resources and great needs, there seems to be limited or no communication about planned outages that impact the health, safety and welfare of customers,” the lawmakers wrote.