A citizen group's challenge to the validity of a series of 10-year wholesale power contracts approved by the California Public Utilities Commission was unanimously rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission April 19. The commission rejected assertions by Californians for Renewable Energy (CARE) that long-term power-purchase agreements violated recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decisions on market rate competition, giving an unfair advantage in an open market to the contract holders. "CARE has provided no factual support for its position," said FERC chair Joe Kelliher. He added that federal and state oversight of California's energy markets has strengthened considerably since the state's energy disruptions of 2000 and 2001 - the period covered in the court cases. "We are much better prepared than we were seven years ago." "These types of procurement contracts are necessary to ensure a robust market," added commissioner Marc Spitzer. The contracts involve Southern California Edison, Long Beach Generation, Pacific Gas & Electric, the Metcalf Energy Center, and Los Medanos Energy Center. The CPUC approved the deals in January. CARE asked FERC to abrogate the agreements and bar such deals in the future because "prices, terms, and conditions in the challenged contract are tainted with the exercise of market power, rendering each challenged contract unjust and unreasonable." The contract proponents countered that the claim was unreasonable. "We find them totally irresponsible," said Jan Smutny-Jones, Independent Energy Producers executive director. "The reality is that California has been procuring resources on an orderly basis in a responsible effort to keep the lights on." The 10-year commitment, said Smutny-Jones, is needed to allow providers to cover capital costs involved in bringing power plants on line with minimal impact from a fluctuating stock market and prime lending rates. The claim is expected to head to federal court, creating more contract uncertainty, said Steven Kelly, IEP policy director.