CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Power Outage Hits New York, New Jersey, Detroit, Ottawa, Toronto
Aired August 14, 2003 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: And now welcome to a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be talking in just a moment with Governor George Pataki, the governor of New York. And then we'll be joined by Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico and the former secretary of energy. Others will be with us throughout the hour as well.
Let's start with Governor George Pataki, who as I believe in Albany, New York.
Were you on vacation, Governor, when this happened?
GOV. GEORGE PATAKI (R), NEW YORK: I was, Larry. I was up in the Adirondacks and about 4:15 or 20 I got the call, and fortunately, I'm down here in our emergency command center. We activated it right away and we're responding as well as can possibly be done.
KING: All right. What is the latest? How much has generally been restored? What's the state of the state?
PATAKI: Well, the state of the state, given what we're going through is tremendous because New Yorkers are great people, and we deal with crisis extremely well.
With respect to power, in western New York we're up to probably 80 percent power restorations, central and eastern upstate New York, maybe 50 percent. Down in the Southern Tier and the Hudson Valley, it's less, maybe 20 or 25 percent. But we're finally beginning to see some power come back in the metropolitan region. There is some power on in Orange -- in Rockland County, some in Westchester County, and we just got a small part of the Bronx powered and we're going to continue to work to try to see that it's restored as quickly as possible.
KING: John King is reporting, Governor, on conflicting reports from Canada saying that it was caused by a lightning bolt hitting Niagara or that area and Niagara is saying no. Do you know what happened?
PATAKI: Well, I know that -- that report is untrue, because our Niagara Falls hydropower plant has worked perfectly throughout this and one of the reasons we were able to keep energy on in western New York and part of Upstate is because the Niagara Falls plant is working fine. So we all are wondering what caused this where it was caused. It should have not happened again. But I can't give you the answer at this point.
KING: Could it have been demand?
PATAKI: I just don't know, Larry, and I don't to speculate. I know one thing, and that is after the last regional outage, the system was supposed to be upgraded to the point where this didn't happen again. It has happened again and the people of New York want answers. They deserve answers. And I'm going to do everything I can to make sure they get those answers.
KING: The president just said he's been in touch with governors. Have you spoken with President Bush?
PATAKI: We have talked -- I haven't talked directly with the president, but we've talked with Andy Card. I have talked with Tom Ridge. We've talked with the energy officials. We've had tremendous communication and cooperation with the federal officials and the Bush administration.
KING: And he said the federal government will be involved in helping and in investigating. Can you count on that?
PATAKI: I have no doubt we can count on that. The president gave his word and September 11 he would come through to help New York rebuild. He did. And I'm confident that he will make sure we get the answers that all of us are asking for, as we get through this crisis as well.
KING: And what's your prognosis on restoration of full power?
PATAKI: Larry, I don't want to give a prognosis. The system of shutting down the plants in an orderly way worked well. They tripped in a way that provided minimal damage. There is some minimal damage to the plants, but they are in condition where they can be upgraded.
The problem is the transmission grid. And you have to have a balance between the demand and the voltage. And making sure that we don't just bring something up precipitously and there's a -- excuse me -- an imbalance in the plant gets damaged. We have to make sure that as we bring this up, we're doing everything to try to make sure it 's going to stay up as long as possible.
KING: Just a couple of things before we talk with Governor Richardson -- and Mayor Bloomberg is going to be holding a press conference in about nine minutes.
Can you tell us about New York City, what you know at this juncture, with regards to stuck subways and people trapped in elevators?
PATAKI: You know, there were about 600 subways and commuter trains that were stranded when the power went out. I know as of an hour and a half ago, all abut six of them had been evacuated and the mayor and the New York City Police Department, the Port Authority, the MTA did a tremendous, tremendous job. And we've had that cooperation. We've had that leadership and I'm just confident it will continue.
I'm sure the mayor could give you an update on the elevator status. But I know with respect to the trains, we've had tremendous cooperative effort that has been successful.
KING: And how about statewide hospitals?
PATAKI: We checked right away. We have a system where we can communicate instantaneously with hospitals and nursing homes. We utilized it. There were two hospitals in Queens that needed the power. The city OEM, when we contact them were able to provide them with the power. So all of the nursing homes, hospitals, health- related facilities have power at this time.
KING: And one other thing -- airports.
PATAKI: Airports, the city airports, all three of them, are open. They are receiving both outgoing and in-bound flights, and obviously it's enormously difficult to get to or from the airports. And we want people to be prudent in travel. We want them to be extremely cautious in utilizing energy. If they get their power back on, don't use any power unnecessarily because it will help us to expedite power coming back for everybody.
KING: Thank you, Governor, as always.
PATAKI: Thank you, Larry.
KING: I'd like to see you on better circumstances. Governor George Pataki.
Let's go to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Standing by is Governor Bill Richardson. He is the governor of New Mexico. He is the former secretary of energy.
On a federal level, do they think about things like this, Bill?
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: You know, Larry, when I was secretary of energy, I went around the country warning that this could happen. We held what we called reliability summits around the country saying, one, we and America were a superpower, but we have a third world grid that needs to be modernized, that is antiquated. We've got an overload on our transmission lines. We've got to build more transmission lines in the country because we've got more technology. We've got more computer demand. We've got more heat waves. We've got more people. And unless we take those steps, we're going to have massive blackouts.
We had some in California several years ago, and what has happened in the Northeast is that this Niagara Mohawk grid has always been overloaded. And what seems to have happened is some kind of a trip in the transmission line in an overloaded system has caused a cascading effect that affects generators, transmission lines and what you have now is this massive blackout and the country can be very vulnerable.
Just think of a terrorist did this. This was almost a natural cause.
KING: So you're saying this could happen in Chicago, San Francisco, New Orleans?
RICHARDSON: Yes, it can, Larry, and the reason is that our transmission lines, our electricity grid is all interconnected. And since we have not built enough transmission lines, the existing lines have an enormous amount of electricity pent-up. In other words, overload. And what we need is basically the federal government and the states working together to allow utilities to invest in new technologies, to bring in wind power and solar and biomass, not just get electricity from the traditional coal and nuclear sources. Diversify, invest in new modern plants.
But also, Larry, this is -- you know, this is very technical. But the Congress has been, for years, not passing an energy bill which contains what are called reliability standards, mandatory reliability standards on utilities, many that are monopolies, that don't want this kind of control, that says to them, look, you cannot have more power than you can absorb. And what they had here in New York - well, in the Niagara power grid is too much power, an overload of power.
KING: But it's still only mid-August, and there has been an awful lot of heat in that area. So that's going to continue. So you start it up, it could happen again tomorrow?
RICHARDSON: Yes. What we have is we're very vulnerable to this kind of overload. Now, Larry, I don't think it's a terrorist situation. By the way, I think the president was wise to come in and calm the country, but at the same time, I don't think it was a computer glitch. You know, in the year 2000, we had that gigantic Y2K effort testing everyone's computers, all entities. The utilities have good computer systems. So then that leaves the next cause and that is an overload in our transmission lines. And we should not permit those overloads. And what happens is the utilities, to make more bucks, to deal with the demand, and then the public, which doesn't like new transmission lines because it's in your backyard and it's not nice to see, and so you have this situation where the greatest superpower in the world has not modernized its power grid. And that's the problem.
KING: So that is very pessimistic. Do you expect the government, Congress, do you expect the utilities, state governments, local governments to act?
RICHARDSON: Well, I believe that this terrible incident has now going to wake up the Congress to pass an energy bill that - an energy policy for this country, an electricity modernization act, Larry, that does three things. One, that allows intrastate building of transmission lines. Number two, we need to build more transmission - number two, mandatory reliability standards. What does that mean? That means that these utilities cannot have too much power overloaded in their systems. And that's what they're doing. They have overloaded power, and when it causes a glitch or there's a trip wire is what happened, it affects all of other systems that are overloaded too in the Northeast. That's the second thing. The third thing that has to happen is discussions between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, because this is generally a federal issue, and the states that allow more cooperation among states on common electricity grids. And then lastly, mandate more alternative sources of energy, not just rely on coal and nuclear, but say, wind power is working, solar, biomass, green technologies, so many new fuel technologies that are existing that are out there that we're not using.
KING: Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
RICHARDSON: Well, I'm optimistic in that this is a wake-up call that the Congress needs to listen to to pass mandatory reliability standards. But we've also got a lot of utilities that have been enjoyed this monopoly power in the country that don't want change, that are going to resist this. Now hopefully the Congress will now get a will to move. Now, again, in the Clinton administration, everybody yawned about this, oh, we don't need to do this. Oh, we don't have a crisis. And then California, blackouts happened and we went around the country saying, we have got to have an electricity modernization bill at the federal level to keep the states from basically fighting each other. So I am now optimistic because this is a massive blackout that is going to wake a lot of people up, and that now we will act. But just think if this had been a terrorist.
KING: All right, Bill, you stay with us because we are going to check back with you later.
Now you are watching a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE on a wild day in New York, and thus far, we have had no reports of any deaths, thank God. Let's go on the streets of New York to CNN anchor and correspondent, Wolf Blitzer.
Wolf, where are you?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm in Manhattan, Larry, on the streets of Manhattan, Lower Manhattan. And I have to tell you, the people of New York so far have responded simply beautifully to what's going on. It has been several hours now, obviously, since the power went off. And by all accounts, people are cooperating. They're patient. They're getting on. They're trying to get home by and large, but it's dark now, and there are some problems that are certainly going to develop, some problems already behind me, just a little while ago there was a fire.
I don't know if our photographer can pan in and take a look at some of the candles that are now providing some source of light for some of the buildings around here. But when you have candles in this kind of an environment, Larry, as you well know, potentially that could be dangerous. And we've been hearing a lot of fire engines roaming around the streets of New York.
KING: Are you seeing any lights go on anywhere?
BLITZER: The only lights that we're seeing in the parts of Manhattan where I've been, and I've been around several parts of Manhattan, are those areas where there are private emergency generators that have been pumped up. But no other - no other lights have gone on other than the emergency lights. There are some - there are some areas of New York that the power is slowly but surely being restored; around the airports, some of the other boroughs. But right now it is still dark where I am here in Manhattan. KING: I see lights in the stadium. I don't know if that is Yankee Stadium or Shea Stadium. The Mets were - their game was postponed tonight. The Yankees are in Baltimore. But there are lights on at a stadium - a baseball stadium that we see through the courtesy of WCBS.
BLITZER: Well, what we are being told, that parts of Westchester County, just outside of New York City, Larry, power has been restored to parts of Westchester County, and presumably, slowly but surely, will get the power restored elsewhere around here. But by all accounts, that could take a while.
KING: Now, I just saw a bus go by you. Cars and buses, they're moving?
BLITZER: The buses are moving, cars are moving. There are no traffic lights, no street lights. So it's pretty dangerous driving out here. And everyone from the mayor and the governor and local law enforcement, police, emergency personnel, they're suggesting get off the roads. If you're home, stay home. Drink a lot of water, they're saying, because it can get hot without air conditioning. Right now it's not that hot here on the streets of New York. But there is some traffic, not a whole lot. Took a while for people to get out of the city. There were a lot of people, tens of thousands, hundreds and thousands of people who simply walked across the bridges into Brooklyn, Queens, because there was no mass transit.
KING: Wolf, you stay with us and if you have a question for Bill Richardson, Bill's with us from Santa Fe, New Mexico, the former secretary of energy. And we're also awaiting a press conference by the mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg. You're watching a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Bill, Governor Richardson, people are extraordinary in extraordinary times, aren't they?
RICHARDSON: Yes, they are. And I think it shows that local officials knew what they were doing. They responded. Obviously Governor Pataki is in control. But you know, a lot of states, Larry, a lot of the problem is generated by our failure to enact comprehensive energy legislation, comprehensive electricity, modernization legislation. You know, our generating facilities, our transmission lines are antiquated. They're old. And we have so much more demand and capacity and more overload of power because of increased needs that the country has, population, technology, people, more computer and cells, that unless we upgrade and modernize our facilities, our transmission lines, build more, and look at distributive generation, which is generating the power where some of these facilities are, those are new technologies, invest in new technologies, we're going to have these blackouts all around. We had them in California four years ago. We had them in the '60s in the West. I think the East Coast is most vulnerable. We're also vulnerable in the West. For instance, I believe that California has some vulnerabilities, Phoenix, the southeast part of the country, New Orleans. We warned that unless there is more investments in new technologies and in new transmission facilities, those areas are vulnerable.
KING: Wolf, we are after the fact people, are we not? We didn't do programs on this last week?
BLITZER: Sometimes you need a wake-up call to get the job done. And let me just ask Governor Richardson a question.
Governor, they were told in Westchester County, parts of Westchester County just outside of New York, Con Ed, the power - the electrical power company here in the greater New York area, says that parts of Westchester now have power. We're also hearing parts of the Bronx. The Bronx abutting Westchester they're getting power. What do we expect? How will this work? Will areas adjacent to each other slowly but surely start getting power?
RICHARDSON: Yes, I think you will see the same way that the tripwire caused massive power throughout the Northeast, I think they are going to be spotty areas that will bring the power back. I think one of the first steps that has to happen is an investigation by the secretary of energy or by the reliability organization under the secretary of energy to see why this happened. How we can avoid it, but we need to know how it happened. I agree with Governor Pataki. The lightning excuse doesn't sound valid to me. I don't think it's a computer glitch. We don't believe it's terrorism. So, therefore, it's one of lines the major transmission lines overloaded.
RICHARDSON: And we can't allow this to happen again.
KING: Governor Richardson is with us in Santa Fe.
Wolf Blitzer is downtown New York in Lower Manhattan.
Joining now Los Angeles is the governor of California. California has been mentioned a few times tonight.
Gray Davis, are you shocked at this or were you kind of saying based on what happen here this could happen?
GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: We certainly learned it could happen. And I have been listening to Governor Richardson, I agree of much what he said. Our problem in California was a lack of capacity. So we build 6,000 new megawatts, enough to accommodate six million new people. Some of it -- and add it after conservation. Because if you let the margin between which the power you need and the power you have get too close, then you run the risk that one plant going down trips the whole system.
KING: You didn't have like this anything, though, occurring?
DAVIS: No, six very brief blackouts, 20 minute, 30 minutes in different parts of the state. But we are an information based economy as is New York. You have all of these servers, all of these computers they just gulp down electricity. And if you have a 21st century economy, you have to have a lot more power and the transmission lines to deliver it.
KING: All right, Governor Davis is with us here in the studios.
Joining us on the phone is Senator Hillary Clinton, the junior senator from the state of New York.
Where were you Senator Clinton when this happened?
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Larry, I was in my office in Midtown Manhattan. I was on one of the floors lower meeting with my summer interns. I have about 50 of these young people and my young staff. And we were having a meeting, talking about the work that we were doing when the lights went out and we told to evacuate the building. And at the time, we just thought it was some problem mechanically with the building that we're in, but of course when we got out onto the sidewalk, we saw that all of the buildings were letting people out, and there was a lot of crowds on the streets. And then we learned more about the full extent of this incredible outage.
And I have to say, Larry, that once again, New Yorkers were just unbelievable. Everybody was calm. They were cooperative. They just went about their business. Started to try to get themselves home. And now we're looking for answers. You know, the lights aren't back on yet, but we have been told that they will be. And I talked to Mayor Bloomberg short while ago, and, you know, nobody was hurt. Everybody got out of subways. They got out of the elevators and the skyscrapers, so thank goodness, even though it's a tremendous economic problem and inconvenience, there were no, you know, human losses at all that we're aware of.
KING: Senator with us is the governor of California, Gray Davis, the governor of New Mexico and former energy secretary, Bill Richardson, and CNN correspondent and anchor, Wolf Blitzer.
And Governor Richardson and Governor Davis have said that this kind of thing should be preventable. Do you agree?
CLINTON: Absolutely. And of course both of them have firsthand experience over the last several years. And I believe that one of questions that we should answer, because of this, is not only how did it happen, but how is it going to be prevented in the future?
There were a couple of times during the past two and a half years in the Senate when a number of us tried to vote for taking action that would increase reliability within the system to try to protect the transmission systems that move energy from one part of our country to another. To have some more backup. We've not been successful up until now, but perhaps now because perhaps we will now be.
KING: Wolf, do you have a question for the senator?
BLITZER: Senator, the people of New York have responded well so far, but I have some concerns standing here on the streets of New York. It's dark, obviously, very dark right now. A lot of people are mulling around. I have seen a lot of crowds mulling around. Clearly for some -- for some misguided New Yorkers, there almost seems to be a festive atmosphere. A lot of people drink beer and other spirits up if you will.
Have New York law enforcement authorities done everything necessary to make sure it doesn't get ugly in parts of New York City tonight?
I'm especially referring to god forbid the possibility of looting or worse?
CLINTON: Well, Wolf, you know, we've got the best police force in the world, with all due respect to everybody else's, in New York City. And I know having heard the mayor and talked with him personally myself, my staff has been in contact with a number of the officials in the city that they have gone into one of their emergency planning modes. They are very well aware of what could happen. But up until now, Wolf, none of that has happened, and obviously the best way to prevent something is to be prepared. But the people that I saw, as I stood on that street and then worked my way out of the city to get to my home in Westchester County, you know, they were outside because it's too hot to be inside.
They were sitting on stoops, standing on corners, taking their kids to the park. Obviously, now that it is getting dark, we do have to be cautious and concerned. But, you know, I think that the NYPD and the city are certainly well prepared. They've had a lot of time to think through about how to handle a crisis like this, which we don't know what cause of it is, but thank goodness it's not terrorism, and they certainly have even added to their capacity since 9/11. So I'm very confident in the work of the NYPD.
KING: Governor Davis is California prepared for something like this?
DAVIS: We are a lot more prepared than three years ago. We have a lot more capacity. We have learned you can't put all of your eggs in one basket. For example I have sign a law that 20 percent of our power starting in 10 years has to come from renewable energy, hydro, solar, geo-thermal.
KING: But Billy Richardson said this could happen in Los Angeles tonight?
DAVIS: It could, but because we have so much more capacity, we're not running on a razor's edge as we used to that we have a lot of backups in place. Now the point I thought he was -- really two problems.
Do you have enough power, and then can you get it to where it is needed?
And where I thought his point was valid in California and probably rest of America are transmission lines. We now have enough power. We have brought on power for six million people plus we are conserving equivalent of another three million megawatts of power just through conservation programs. As a matter of fact, we spent $1 billion a couple years ago to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) your putting demand management programs right here at CNN. Businesses that saves power every year. But we're still dependent on the lines that get the power from where its generated to where its needed.
KING: Senator Clinton, is the federal government on top of this or not?
CLINTON: Well, Larry, I agree with Governor Davis and I know Governor Richardson is very knowledgeable about this as well, that we just haven't made the kind of national investments that we need, particularly in the transmission system. I happen to think that making sure we have a reliable, affordable system of energy is a national priority. And I don't think that this administration sees it that way. They have continued to try to push deregulation and privatization, and to try to undo a lot of the systems in changes that many of us thought were important and necessary that we tried to work on during the Clinton administration under Secretary Richardson's leadership. And frankly to throw in a lot of roadblocks in the way of Governor Davis, when he tried to clean up some of the problems that he had with the manipulation of the energy markets by Enron and others. So, no, I don't think the federal administration under this president is really focused on making sure we don't have these problems in the future.
KING: Hang with us, Senator Clinton, and Wolf, and Governor Richardson and Governor Davis. We are going to take a short break and we'll come back and get us up to date on events. It seems like light are sporadically going on. Your watching a special addition of LARRY KING LIVE, we'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know what's go on either. It was kind of like all of these other people, just looking around. Don't know what happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow. It's creepy. I don't care. I am getting a flashback from September 11. I don't like this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty hectic actually. Getting around and everything, it's crazy. We need to take the subway back where we came from and we don't know if it's going to be running. So, we don't what to take the bus because we know it's going to be over crowded. I don't know, it's pretty harsh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back and here's the press conference by Mayor Bloomberg at city hall in New York.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: There parts of Brooklyn and parts of Queens that are already back. Bigger parts of the Bronx, Queens is particularly important to us because there's a lot of generating capacity in Queens, which can only get up if Queens is back online. So the more you get out of Queens, the more it helps the rest of the city. We are certainly not out of the woods yet. There are still many people who do not have electricity. Which in this day in age in our modern world really is a burden for them. And our main concern is that they take care and that they don't turn an inconvenience into a tragedy.
Common sense is what should rule. Drinking water makes a lot of sense, keeping windows open, makes a lot of sense. Checking food in refrigerators and exercising some common sense as to whether perishable items might have spoiled. If you have to make a mistake, err on the side of being cautious. There's no amount of food that is valuable enough to run the risk of serious food poisoning.
So far, let me run down the list of what's been done. All of the subways have been evacuated safely. The transit authority, MTA, did a great job, along with the police department. Last time I checked, almost all of the elevators were evacuated, both the fire department and the police department...
KING: We've lost the press conference, as soon as we can get it back, we'll go right to it. There was some kind of disconnect, it could have been a power outage.
I understand Paula Zahn is with us. Paula, can you hear me? And if you can, can you tell me where you are at?
I am sorry, Wolf Blitzer is still with us. They told me we were going to Paula Zahn. Are you seeing lights go on, Wolf?
BLITZER: Sporadically, a little bit, but I can't tell, Larry, if these are lights that are going on because electricity power is being restored to parts of Manhattan or these are emergency generators. We are told Westchester county, just outside of New York, parts of the Bronx, that touches up to Westchester, lights are coming on there. Con Ed, the big electrical company, saying that power slowly but surely will be restored.
There are, if you see behind me, you see some lights. It's hard to tell, though, whether those are lights coming from emergency generators or lights, Larry, coming from power that has been restored. By all accounts, it's going to take a while longer before Manhattan gets power.
KING: Bill, I know this is probably a stupid question, but we'll ask it any way. Why does it come on sporadically? Why can't it just come on?
RICHARDSON: Larry, you are talking to me?
KING: Yes, I am sorry, governor. Why is it sporadic?
RICHARDSON: Well, the problem is that the electricity grid is all interconnected but some systems that are more overloaded than the others. And I think that what Governor Davis said made a lot of sense, and he doesn't get the credit he deserves for dealing with these kind of blackouts that he had. He has massive conservation measures in California that are very important.
I think the public also, Larry, I know the public has respond well. But we have got to conserve our energy much better. Use air conditioners more efficiently. We also have got to also bite the bullet in terms of transmission lines. But the sporadic answer is that we have a system that is so interconnected that if there's an overload in one system, it could affect the entire system.
KING: Senator Clinton, by the way, had to leave us, as you imagine this is a suppressing night for her. We thank her for joining us on the phone.
Governor Davis, you were telling me something I hadn't thought about, people on life-saving machines, dialysis, what happened to them today?
DAVIS: We don't know, and let's hope they survived and are in good shape. In California, we have about 500,000 people who dependent on those machines at home. And...
KING: So we won't know what happened to them in New York.
DAVIS: No, a day or two.
KING: So saying no fatalities could be premature, then?
DAVIS: Could be premature. Let's hope there are no fatalities. But that's one of the risks of cutting it too closely when you are dealing with capacity versus demand. Again, the key is to make sure you have, and that means you have it pay for, more capacity that you need.
We so streamline our permitting process, we went from as long as three years down to 21 days to build plants. A lot of those a peeker plants, but they're used on the hottest days. And you know we've had about six days in a row of 100-degree temperatures and we haven't had a stage-one alert because of those peeker plants.
KING: Paula Zahn is ready now. Can you tell us, if you hear us, Paula, where you are at?
PAULA ZAHN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Larry, I can hear you. We are sort of on the border of what is known as the Chelsea area and Greenwich Village, south of the midtown section of New York City. As you just heard as you dipped into the mayor's news conference, he is declaring us not out of woods quite yet, although he's saying in Queens, there is a capacity to generate some more electricity, but what are we told privately that New York City will be the last part of this whole area that will have power because of the drain it puts on the system.
Larry, also wanted to quickly describe to you what else we know about what is going on in the city right now. First of all, New Yorkers are being told to use phones sparingly. And when power comes back on, not to turn their air conditioners back on or fans to reduce the drain on the system. Right now, New Jersey, New York being declared a state of an emergency. Only emergency services being offered at New York City area hospitals. They are up and running on generators. That's the only thing they are doing are emergency operations.
New York police department and fire department also up and running on generators. The 911 system is working, although we are told, there are some glitches. It's a little difficult to trace where calls are coming from at the moment.
Now what is really interesting, Larry, is to understand what happened today when the power went out. Just to give everybody a perspective. In a three-minute period from 4:10 to 4:13, 20 power plants down across the nation. And ten nuclear power plants went to black. Now, what happened with the police department was that there was initially fear of terrorism, and the police commissioner Ray Kelly confirming tonight that heavily-armed teams, special counter terror officers, actually moved into place at various city landmarks. In other sensitive locations. And then they turned to a different operation called the Atlas Team to make sure once it wasn't terrorism that no one took advantage of this lack of power here.
And the mayor just confirming there haven't been any unusual acts of criminal activity that the evening, thank God.
KING: Paula, are you talking about people, and what are they saying? Are they upset? Are they angered? Are they ticked?
ZAHN: Well, interestingly enough, if you were to try to petition people at city bars, they are drinking by candlelight. We are told, people are drinking cold beer. And there has been a great collective sense of relief that this was not terrorism. So I have not been at the bar this evening, but from what our producers tell us this evening, people are feeling very relieved that it isn't anything but a technical glitch at this point.
But the other thing, that you'd be impressed by, giving your background as a New Yorker here, Larry, is the level of help New Yorkers have been giving each other. You heard about civilians walking the streets with no street lights on. And no traffic lights on. Helping people cross streets. Various ice cream trucks offering free ice cream cones to folks, and of course, people offering total strangers rides home tonight. There are still hundreds of thousands of people not able to get home at this hour and lord knows how they are going to get home by work time tomorrow.
KING: And, Paula, with no red lights, people are being courteous? They are stopping and letting cross traffic go through?
ZAHN; Well, that's a very good question. There are pockets of gridlock about the city, mostly moving from west to east at this hour. There are also a bunch of blockages at the major bridges. We are told that there is only 1 lane of traffic moving in 1 direction, and at some of the bridges, usually that's 3 lanes or 4 lanes of traffic. So things are moving slowly. But the most amazing thing in the suburban areas tonight was the lack of traffic I saw coming in as I choppered in by air because people were just stuck here in the city. It's hard to believe that things will be back to normal by this time tomorrow, but the mayor predicting that at some point during the day New York will look like a pretty typical day.
KING: Paula, you hang tough, you stay with us. And Wolf Blitzer will stay with us.
Governor Richardson, based on what you've told us. Could this happen all over again? Could it restart up and go back down on Saturday?
RICHARDSON: Yes it could. There could be another overload in another part of the country. In the west I think we've got a little better situation, but it could repeat itself in the Northeast, which I think is the most vulnerable area.
What I think happened...
KING: It could?
RICHARDSON: ... Larry, was a transmission line was overloaded. It causes the collapse of transmission line, the generating facility to shut down. And then you have this tripwire effect. And what we need, if there's any salvation, is a comprehensive energy bill where I think the president can't just emphasize more production of oil and natural gas. There has got to be more conservation measures. There has got to be this electricity modernization part. I wish the president and the administration would talk more about modernizing our grid. The utilities have got to stop trying to be monopolies in some parts of the country. We have to have these reliability standards. Right now the reliability standards, in other words, you can't have too much power, they're only voluntary. So there are no fines. Utilities don't comply. So I think if there is a bad guy here, I think our utilities have got to step up to you plate, modernize their facilities. But the Congress has to have some rules for the road that allows this investment that stimulates new technologies like distributive generation, fuel technology, push, what are called renewable portfolios, which is more solar, wind, biomass, as Governor Davis has done in California.
KING: The trouble, Governor Davis is, once things are back to normal, we forget about it by Monday.
DAVIS: Well, we can't do that.
KING: The air conditioning is working, the lights are on.
DAVIS: Yes. But we live in a different society here, because the demands of the information-based economy are much greater than the industrial-based economy. And in California years ago, 20 years ago, we started making energy-efficient appliances from toasters to refrigerators to air conditioners. We are doing stuff at the University of California that - it's called smart dust. You put it in the paint and it will automatically adjust the temperature in the room. Those...
KING: So we have...
DAVIS: ... are the sources...
KING: ... after the fact.
DAVIS: ... smart investments that allow us to use the existing energy capacity more smartly and avoid these catastrophic shutdowns. Because there are huge economic and human costs if this gets prolonged.
KING: We are going to take another break and then come back. And we will be returned with Paula Zahn and Governor Bill Richardson, the former energy secretary and the governor of California, Gray Davis. And we thank George Pataki for being with us earlier as well as Senator Hillary Clinton. As we go to break, here are some excerpts from the president's remarks earlier. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The emergency preparedness teams at the local and the state level are responding very well. I also want to thank the people in the affected cities and states for their calm response to this emergency situation. It has been remarkable to watch on television how resolved the people are about dealing with this situation, and I'm grateful for that. And I know their neighbors are grateful as well for the proper and calm response.
The other thing, of course, we're working on is to get electricity up and running as quickly as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back. We'll be joined soon on the phone by Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell. We understand things are much better in Cleveland. We'll also talk with Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, that's a trade group which represents many of the nation's power plants. Is Tom ready in Washington?
TOM KUHN, PRES., EDISON ELECTRIC INST.: I am, Larry.
KING: OK. Tom, what is your reaction to the events today?
KUHN: Well, it certainly is a very unfortunate situation, and we are trying to find out the cause of the problem. I think as everybody indicated tonight, electricity is the lifeblood of the economy. And we all rely on it greatly in our lives. So we have a situation here. We have a very interconnected system where the power plants do trip off-line when a major incident occurs. And we're trying to find out the situation that did occur here. And we have many, many people working overnight as we do in every situation where there's an emergency to restore power. KING: And does the power industry - before we talk with Mayor Campbell, does the power industry, along with the states and the federal government, have a responsibility to correct this, Tom?
KUHN: Well, I think that basically the president - the first thing the president did when he came to office was to form a national energy strategy that talked about the importance of conservation, and energy efficiency was discussed here tonight, but also building additional electricity infrastructure. And we fully support that. We hope an energy legislation will be passed in this Congress that will provide additional incentives to build infrastructure investment in both transmission, which everybody has indicated here is so very necessary, as well as the generation distribution side of the equation.
KING: Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell is with us by phone. What can you tell us, Ms. Mayor, about the situation in your city?
MAYOR JANE CAMPBELL, CLEVELAND: Well, we still do not have power. It is dark in Cleveland. What we've experienced now is our biggest problem that we're most worried about is the water system. We have called up all of our off-duty police officers. We've called an additional shift of firefighters in so that we could have police and fire presence throughout our neighborhoods. We are - all of our hospitals are operating on emergency backup and they're doing fine. We have four water plants. And they are interconnected and the water is pumped from place it place, and it is the pumps which are electrical. And so we have already lost water to some of our higher ground areas. We provide water not only for the city of Cleveland but for all of our suburban communities. And so we are working with our crew (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the power system and with our investor-owned utility to see what we can do to try to contact - to try to generate some power at those plants, those power plants - the water plants functioning again.
KING: I hadn't thought - is the airport open or not?
CAMPBELL: The airport was receiving the planes that were in the air and close...
KING: OK. We have seem to have lost the mayor. Governor Richardson, I guess we don't realize how much interconnected, electricity affects water?
RICHARDSON: That's right, Larry. And what you have is a grid system in the East Coast that of all of the regions is the most interconnected. I mean, basically you've got Niagara Mohawk, which also is Canadian, involved in this grid. And I noticed you had Tom Kuhn there. He is a very responsible official who tried, in the Clinton administration and now in this administration, to just get the Congress to deal with electricity modernization. The Congress has not acted. They have been - had this legislation for five years. I think this provides an opportunity to move forward so that these overloaded grids -- look at the mayor of Cleveland. That grid is overloaded, and we have an opportunity to modernize that grid, generation facilities, other lines. And really have an energy policy in the country that, again, not just coal, not just nuclear, but wind, and biomass, and distributive technology, fuel technology. Now's the time to do this.
KING: Tom, why can't you get it through, Tom Kuhn?
KUHN: Well I think again, there is a great deal of support for this and it is bipartisan. So we hope to get energy legislation through. It is involved with many other issues. But for the most part, there's about 90 percent agreement on the issues we've discussed tonight, that they should pass. And it's some of the more controversial issues I think that are holding up in energy legislation right now.
KING: Going to comment, Governor Davis?
DAVIS: Yes, I think we need more capacity. We have certainly done that in California. That has helped us out immensely, but don't overlook the importance of conservation. California before our energy crisis was the most energy energy-efficient in the state in the country. That was before we invested $1 billion. We just pay if you were a business or a home, if you would invest in energy conservation, because we knew it would pay dividends for years to come. That's, for very little money, you can get an awful lot of savings out of conservation.
KING: Hold on, governor. Mayor Campbell, how are Clevelanders coping?
CAMPELL: Clevelanders are cope very well. One of the things we asked Cleveland to do was go home, be with their families.
KING: Sorry we are having such terrible connection, we apologize, Ms. Mayor, but we are having a difficult connection.
What were you going it say, Governor Richardson?
RICHARDSON: Well, what I was going it say to amplify what Tom Kuhn said. If issues like drilling in Alaska and Anwar are going to kill the energy bill, if there are other measures that deal with production in environmentally sensitive areas, or even some conservation measures, if that's going to kill an energy bill, move those away as important as they are, but pass the electricity modernization act that mandates reliability standards.
Tom Kuhn didn't say this, but there are some of the utilities out there that like this monopoly situation. Some are very progressive and want reform, but there are others, I can tell you that don't want to change. And they like this control and so there's this overload. And they don't invest in new technologies. And they like the old system. That has to change.
KING: Do you expect this event, Tom, to play a part in changing it?
KUHN: Well, I think that basically we've been saying for years that you do need to invest in new technologies to upgrade the system. We do have in fact have the most reliable electric system in the entire world. We represent companies from all over the world. And -- but we do have an increasing demands for electricity that require that we continue to make major investments and put new technologies on the system. So we anticipate obviously that unfortunate events like this illustrate the situation, but we do need to move forward expeditiously.
KING: You optimistic or pessimistic, Governor Davis?
DAVIS: I think if people understand that electricity is the lifeblood of our economy like water is essential for life itself, that they'll do the right thing. I mean, I think people will be shocked that a third of the country lost power for a sustained period of time. That puts human life at great risk and as I said earlier, it remains to be seen if everyone survived this, hopefully they did. But clearly public won't stand for two, three, four, five days' disruption over a couple month period. We just take electricity for granted, but none of our businesses, none of our churches, none of our daily life continue, unless electricity is provided on a reliable basis. That's the key, reliable.
KING: So your optimistic?
DAVIS: I am optimistic that tonight will be a wake-up call.
KING: What about you Governor Richardson?
RICHARDSON: I am optimistic. I think the public also in being more conservation oriented, we have to do that. Also new transmission lines, they're ugly. They're difficult. Local communities don't want to see them, but we just need them. We're growing so much as a nation, and so much demand. I'm optimistic, but the first step has to be these reliability standards and a comprehensive energy bill that deals with our energy problems passed by the Congress. That has to happen.
KING: Governor Richardson, do you expect power -- this is -- you wouldn't have direct knowledge, do you expect power to be restored by morning?
RICHARDSON: No, I don't think it'll be by morning.
RICHARDSON: But I think it'll number the next day or two. But that's not acceptable. This shouldn't happen in the most modern superpower in the world. I bet you countries, third world countries are saying, look at Iraq. They've had a lot of blackouts. I'm not comparing ourselves to Iraq, and I know when I say we have a third world grid it's partly to motivate our electricity and transmission systems to invest in new technologies, to modernize, to build new transmission plants. You know, we've been warning this for years and no one has listened and it takes a crisis for a wake-up call it all of us.
KING: Governor Davis, frankly, do you expect this to be an issue in the recall campaign?
DAVIS: People may try and go back and second-guess what we did, but I would like to know what they would do when Enron had manipulated the market. We had totally different situation where energy companies would claim they've had electrons on their grid, they didn't. But it would confuse us and paid them bonuses to take it off. So, we had a problem of not enough capacity plus the energy companies were ripping us off big time. The way to solve that is to have more capacity than you need and that takes away the incentives of people trying to manipulate us.
KING: And I must ask you, with a few minutes remaining, before I say good night to Governor Richardson, hang on with us, one second, Bill.
How are you emotionally dealing with this roller-coaster ride you are on?
DAVIS: I have taken a lot of hits lately, Larry. But the people I represent have had harder time. This national economy has not been good for California or 47 other states. So I'm working every day to do my best to make things better. We got a budget done. We are going to have a privacy bill, which is real important, so people can control their own personal financial data. We will get worker's compensation reforms so public, non-profit cities and businesses don't have to bear these costs. I will spend every day trying to make things better, whether that's 60 days or three years.
KING: Big story today about former President Clinton trying to stop the recall -- defeat the recall movement is that true?
DAVIS: I don't like to speak for him. He has been a mentor and adviser of mine for along time.
KING: But you have talked to him about it.
DAVIS: Yes, he is a thoughtful man. His advice is sound. And I thank god sometimes he's at other end of phone.
KING: Do you think you can defeat the recall?
DAVIS: I think in the end, we will. Because I think people are fair and I trust their judgment.
KING: And Governor Richardson, you are confident that this kind of thing will lead to what you want?
DAVIS: Yes because I'm optimistic about this country. We're a great country. I just wish we didn't react to crises to do the right thing. But if there's one thing we need to do is to have mandatory reliability standards so these utilities don't overload the system. And left a lot of people victims, families, ordinary people that have nothing to do with this problem become the victims. And that's not right.
KING: We take electricity for granted, don't we governor.
DAVIS: We do.
KING: We turn the switch, it goes on.
DAVIS: We do and we shouldn't. We can see what happens in terms of potential loss of life, tremendous inconvenience, and obviously there will be a huge economic loss associated with this.
KING: Governor Richardson, we take energy for granted, don't we?
RICHARDSON: Yes, we do.
KING: Going to be there!
RICHARDSON: We go around in this and big cars and that's fun. I'm not very good at it. I have an SUV for security.
RICHARDSON: But we should all be more energy efficient. We should all promote fuel-efficient technologies and we haven't done that. We don't like to bite the bullet. But I do think that the government can do its part and promote production of new source of energy, oil and gas is fine. Clean. Done cleanly. Conservation measures, we've got to do more. New technologies, emphasize wind and biomass and solar. We just talk about it. We never do it. And then finally, our grid systems, our transmission lines, our generating facilities. Everyone takes them for granted but we need to modernize them. We need to invest in these new technologies. We need to get some utilities like these monopoly powers that overload to stop doing this. It takes leadership. It takes the president. It takes the Congress to move forward. It takes governors. And I think Governor Davis bit the bullet and made his energy situation a lot better.
KING: Thank you.
RICHARDSON: We need to do that.
KING: Governor, thanks for spending the hour with us. Always good to see you. The governor Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico and former secretary of energy and Governor Gray Davis of California.
DAVIS: Larry, good it see you.
KING: Thanks for coming out on short notice. We appreciate your input. We also thank Wolf Blitzer of CNN and Paula Zahn of CNN. They'll be around the clock I am sure, covering the scene on the streets on New York. We thank Tom Kuhn, the president of Edison Electric Institute, a trade group representing many of nation's power plants who has been called by Governor Richardson a progressive in the area.
We thank Governor George Pataki for giving us quite a few moments at the beginning of the show.
Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell.
And of course Hillary Clinton of New York.
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