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Workers say NSP fudged numbers

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- Northern States Power-Minnesota officials altered records to show power failures lasted for less time than they actually did in order to meet state-ordered service reliability standards, a published report said Friday.

Two NSP employees told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that the system has deteriorated so badly that altering reliability figures is the only way the utility can meet state requirements. The employees provided internal documents to the newspaper on the condition that their names not be published.

A company official told the newspaper that adjustments are routinely made to records to make figures more accurate -- not to mislead regulators.

NSP, a Minneapolis-based subsidiary of Xcel Energy that has 1.3 million customers, eliminated all but emergency maintenance on its equipment at the start of 2001.

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Among the documents provided to the Pioneer Press were before-and-after records on 12 non-weather-related power failures. The employees said they pulled the records at random and all 12 showed changes that, on paper, indicated each outage was fixed more quickly than it really was.

For example, the original report of an outage in Burnsville in April showed customers were without electricity for 3 hours, 42 minutes. But a subsequent document used by managers to compile reliability reports listed the duration of the outage as 1 hour, 12 minutes -- 21⁄2; half hours less.

"We do make adjustments to the data," said Scott Wilensky, Xcel's executive director of state and public affairs. "We make them because there's several layers of employees involved in the documentation process. It's a manual system. There's going to be errors. We screen the data for various errors."

Regulators said they are disturbed about the workers' allegations.

"Assuming the allegations are true, there's going to be hell to pay," said Jim Bernstein, the state's commerce commissioner. State officials have been concerned about the quality of NSP's service since the company merged with Denver-based New Century Energies in 2000.

Wilensky said the data was altered only to make it accurate.

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