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PPL exec apologizes for actions that redirected repair crew

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A vice president at electric utility PPL apologized Wednesday for his actions that led a repair crew to be redirected to his neighborhood after a 2011 power outage even though it wasn’t next in line.

PPL issued the statement from Dave Bonenberger, vice president of distribution operations, hours after state utility regulators complied with a state Supreme Court order that it release investigative records on the utility’s response to the storm.

In a letter to employees, the electric utility’s president, Gregory Dudkin, wrote that Bonenberger had called the utility’s storm room to ask about an outage in his neighborhood near Tamaqua. Supervisors interpreted the call as an order to reassign a crew to his area.

As a result, the Nesquehoning neighborhood where the crew was originally working waited about four extra hours to have its power restored.

“A PPL internal audit of the events found that Bonenberger exercised poor judgment and did not comply with company policy,” the company said in a statement. “The audit said his actions created a conflict of interest.”

Bonenberger said he regrets that his “actions led to a misunderstanding, and I especially regret that some of our customers had a longer power outage as a result.”

Last month, Pennsylvania’s high court ordered the release of investigative records concerning the utility’s response to the freak October snowstorm.

A group of news organizations, including The Associated Press, had appealed a lower-court ruling backing the Public Utility Commission’s effort to keep the records secret.

The investigative records include an anonymous letter from a PPL employee that said a crew restoring power in a high-priority area was diverted to a lower-priority area during the snowstorm, which cut power to about 388,000 customers. More than 131,000 customers were without electricity for more than 24 hours.

The Allentown-based utility, which provides electricity for 1.4 million customers in eastern and central Pennsylvania, paid a $60,000 fine over the 2011 incident.

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