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CFE chief Manuel Bartlett. CFE chief Manuel Bartlett.

Details of December’s massive power outage to be kept secret for 2 years

CFE claims releasing details could affect outcome of investigation, trigger social unrest

Despite President López Obrador promising that his government won’t suppress public information, the state-owned Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) will keep details of a massive blackout in December under wraps for two years.

In response to a freedom of information request by the newspaper El Universal for access to a public version of the file on the December 28 power outage that affected some 10.3 million customers, the CFE refused to release it.

The utility justified keeping the file under wraps until February 2023 on the grounds that a final ruling about the causes of the blackout has not yet been made. Making the file public now would be to hand over details that are not yet official, the CFE said.

The company also said that releasing the file could have an impact on process to determine the causes of the outage and cause social unrest.

“Providing the information or documentation that is sought would imply providing details and information that is still in a period of deliberation,” the CFE told El Universal.

The applicant for the file – the newspaper – could publish its contents and by doing so “generate a social movement or revolt that places both order and social safety at risk,” it said.

In addition, the CFE said that disseminating information that doesn’t constitute final, definitive findings could affect potential investment in the company and cause people to lose confidence in it. The supply of electricity could be affected as a result, it said.

The CFE’s refusal to release details about the blackout comes just over a week after Mexico suffered another major outage due to an interruption to the natural gas supply caused by freezing weather in Texas.

The cause of the December blackout was less clear, with the CFE variously blaming the shutdown of 16 power stations due to transmission line irregularities, a high concentration of renewable energy in the electricity system, court rulings and a wildfire in Tamaulipas.

Although there was apparently a fire in Tamaulipas, that explanation lost credibility after it came to light that the CFE had falsified a document supposedly issued by Civil Protection authorities in the northern state.

Civil Protection authorities in Tamaulipas said they had no knowledge of a fire or the “official statement” exhibited by the CFE. State Civil Protection director Pedro Granados Ramírez declared that the document was false, explaining that the logo it bore was not that of his office, the folio number did not coincide with those in use and the signature was not that of the official named.

The CFE later admitted to the forgery but CFE chief Manuel Bartlett dismissed the issue as a minor one.

“There was a fire, that’s proven,” Bartlett said January 5. “… The [false] document is not the explanation of the [electricity] system failure,” he said.

Almost two months later, the exact cause of the blackout remains unclear and the general public looks set to be kept in the dark for another two years.

Source: El Universal (sp) 

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