OLYMPIA -- Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire today took action before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to support efforts by Northwest utilities to obtain rate relief for customers who were harmed by the fraudulent activities by Enron.
In a petition filed today with FERC, Gregoire said she will argue that the commission should order Enron to give up all profits because its traders unlawfully manipulated wholesale energy markets for years. Today's filing asks FERC to allow the state to intervene and participate in support of utilities seeking rate relief.
"Enron used fraudulent, deceptive tactics to illegally manipulate the market," Gregoire said. "By now, everyone has heard the tapes, and the evidence is in. It's time for FERC to act. People expect government to stop fraud, not condone it."
Gregoire made the announcement this morning at a press conference that included U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and Snohomish County Public Utility District officials. Gregoire also announced that her office will join a separate Snohomish PUD filing to FERC. That filing asks FERC for an order declaring that the PUD is not barred from attempting to void the PUD's longterm power contract with Enron in light of previous and new evidence that the company fraudulently manipulated the West Coast energy market.
New audiotapes and other documents have recently revealed that Enron traders engaged in daily market manipulation during the 2000-2001 energy crisis that required many Washington consumers to pay rates more than 50 percent higher than previously, and to continue paying those rates today.
If the Snohomish County PUD contract with Enron is not voided, it could cost each utility customer an estimated $420.
Last month, FERC ordered Enron to forfeit $32 million in profits because it did not properly inform the commission of its relationship with El Paso Electric Co. during the 2000 -2001 power crisis. In the same order, the Commission broadened the scope of its investigatory proceedings and stated that "Enron potentially could be required to disgorge profits for all of its wholesale power sales in the Western Interconnect for the period January 16, 1997 to June 25, 2003.
As a result, Washington utilities such as the Snohomish County PUD, Seattle City Light and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) may be able to seek relief from the excessive prices they were forced to pay as a result of Enron's illegal market manipulation as far back as 1997. Earlier this week, Gregoire urged BPA to look into filing additional claims on behalf of its customers.
Washington has not been successful in other FERC proceedings to convince the commission to take action against Enron and return billions of dollars in overcharges due to its market manipulation.
The Attorney General's petition to FERC is available here.