Calif. to Show Evidence on Energy Crisis
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ California officials will submit evidence that many public and private energy companies systematically withheld electricity during the state’s energy crisis, driving up prices.
The evidence that California is submitting to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday will remain confidential, but a summary will be made public. Names of the companies won’t be released unless FERC decides to overturn a protective order.
California wants FERC to order $8.9 billion in refunds for 2000 and 2001, when power prices soared in the state’s newly deregulated market and the state faced energy shortages and rolling blackouts.
A draft of the summary says the generating companies engaged in systematic withholding, according to a source who had seen the document.
It says the evidence shows that manipulating the California power market and withholding electricity was the rule, not the exception, in 2000 and 2001, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A FERC administrative law judge found in December that California should get $1.8 billion in refunds, but also determined that energy companies were owed $3 billion from unpaid bills for power delivered to the state.
Wholesale prices in California shot up in May 2000, but the judge’s findings, based on complex formulas, covered power transactions from October 2000 to June 2001. Those findings didn’t take into account evidence of market manipulation.
California appealed and FERC gave the state 100 more days to compile evidence.
The state’s evidence was culled from ``literally millions of pages of documents,″ said Eric Saltmarsh, general counsel for the Electricity Oversight Board, one of the state agencies involved in the FERC case.
``It is representative, not exhaustive,″ Saltmarsh said. ``We had 100 days and more than 100 companies to look at. We do not pretend for a moment that we have dragged the net through the entire world.″
Energy companies have largely denied wrongdoing.
Reliant Energy agreed in January to refund $13.8 million to settle claims that employees withheld power for two days to drive up prices. Houston-based Reliant admitted no wrongdoing, saying the June 2000 actions were ``an isolated situation.″
Some of the evidence the state will produce will include documents already made public, such as the Enron memos that outlined market manipulation strategies with colorful names like ``Get Shorty,″ ``Ricochet″ and ``Fat Boy,″ Saltmarsh said.
The Enron memos indicated that other companies had similar strategies, but provided no details.