By J.D. Davidson
The Center Square

A group of Ohio Democratic lawmakers want answers from a state power provider after planned blackouts during a record-setting heat wave left hundreds of thousands of Ohioans in the dark.

In a letter to American Electric Power President and COO Marc Reitter, the lawmakers want answers to why customers, communities and hospitals were not notified and how communities were selected for outages.

“As one of the state’s leading utility companies, we believe you have an obligation to reasonably provide customers with access to services and communicate planned outages to limit the human and financial costs shouldered by families, cities and people with medical needs,” the letter reads. “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.”

On Wednesday, AEP said violent storms that ripped through the state Monday caused damage to high-voltage power lines, which created more stress and overload on the power grid as heat indexes climbed into the 100-degree neighborhood Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

At the same time, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairwoman Jennifer French announced an after-action review of the outages caused by storms and the planned outages.

“We’ve been closely monitoring the outages. As with any major outage we will be communicating with Ohio’s utilities to do an after-action review and determine what steps can be taken to avoid future occurrences,” French said in a statement during Thursday’s PUCO meeting. “These outages have caused not only inconveniences but serious problems for residents and businesses in the affected areas.”

The Ohio Consumers’ Council is calling for a PUCO investigation, rather than a review, of the outages.

"Job 1 is to safely and urgently restore consumers’ power. Then the PUCO should order an independent investigation of the whole incident,” said Bruce Weston, agency director of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel. “Consumers’ voices must be heard in that process. We hope for the safety of the public and AEP’s workers."