OLYMPIA - Attorney General Christine Gregoire announced today that the Williams Companies, Inc. and the Williams Energy Marketing and Trading Company will pay $15 million to resolve state claims that it participated in market manipulations and overcharges that caused electricity rates to skyrocket for Washington consumers over the winter of 2000-2001.
Williams Energy is the first of several energy companies under investigation by the Attorneys General of Washington, Oregon and California to reach a settlement with those states. Williams has also agreed to cooperate with the state's ongoing investigations into energy price manipulations, including sharing records that could link other companies to violations of state or federal law.
Gregoire hailed the multi-million dollar agreement as a fair and equitable solution and called on other energy suppliers currently under investigation to follow Williams Energy's lead.
"We look to the others to come forward and do the right thing," Gregoire said. "It's not in the best interest of anyone to go on investigating and litigating this for years."
While Williams has admitted no wrongdoing, the Attorney General said today's settlement validates the states' concerns that energy suppliers were overcharging during the energy crisis that plagued the West Coast in 2000 and 2001.
The total value of the settlement in the three states is $417 million.
Williams will pay Washington $15 million over the next three years. The money will be placed in an interest-bearing account until the investigations into other energy suppliers are concluded.
At that point, the Attorney General's Office will make a proposal to the court on how best to distribute the money. Gregoire said the goal is to provide a meaningful restitution to ratepayers.
Williams Energy, based in Tulsa, Okla., is described as a minor player in electricity sales to Washington. Williams sold electricity to Washington through brokers in the real time market as well as directly to utilities including Avista and PacifiCorp utilities in Eastern Washington.
The largest energy supplier under investigation, Houston-based Enron, has filed for bankruptcy protection in federal court. The Attorney General's Office has filed a claim on ratepayers' behalf with the bankruptcy court. But it is unclear how much if any money will be available to compensate those ratepayers.