State, Utilities File More Crisis-Era Claims

By Published On: December 9, 2005

As a prelude to what could be more lawsuits, the Attorney General’s Office and state investor-owned utilities announced that they are filing claims against munis and other governmental agency energy providers for allegedly overcharging during the 2000-01 energy crisis. The Attorney General’s Office stated December 5 that the total involved is more than $1 billion. The claims are, or will be, directed to the named agencies or munis. If the claims are denied, then the state and the utilities may file more lawsuits to garner the funds they claim they are owed for alleged excess billings dating back to 2000-01. To date, the state has only sent a claim to the Bonneville Power Administration. “Pay [BPA] up and move on,” retorted Bonneville spokesperson Ed Mosey. Bonneville asserts that California owes it a net of $74 million from energy it sent to California during the crisis and exports that threatened salmon populations in the Northwest rivers. Mosey added that federal regulators had already vetted the claims and decided in Bonneville’s favor. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, however, left some avenues open, according to Tom Dresslar, attorney general spokesperson. These claims are based on “unjust rates,” not the gaming issues that FERC put to rest, he explained. The move follows a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling September 6, 2005, that federal regulators could not force governmental entities to refund power profits (Circuit, Sept. 9, 2005). FERC does not have authority over those entities, said the court, only over investor-owned utilities. Dresslar noted that the state has not yet decided whether to sue the governmental entities if its claims are turned down. The entities that received claims filings by San Diego Gas & Electric included the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, the Department of Water Resources, the Western Area Power Administration, and the Northern California Power Agency, as well as a number of cities and irrigation districts. Aside from SDG&E, utilities contacted about the claims didn’t comment what munis they have filed against. SDG&E spokesperson Ed Van Herik said a decision to pursue litigation following the claims has not been made.

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