SEATTLE -- Attorney General Christine Gregoire today announced a plan for distributing approximately $37 million the state will receive over the next 20 years from antitrust settlements with two major energy companies, Williams Energy and El Paso Energy.
The settlement with El Paso, announced last June, and the settlement with Williams, reached in November 2002, followed investigations by the attorneys general of Washington, Oregon and California into alleged illegal manipulation of electricity prices during the West Coast energy crisis of 2000-2001.
"By manipulating energy prices, these companies created real financial hardships for businesses and consumers," Gregoire said. "We can't undo that damage, but we can find a fair way to use this money to help consumers and businesses."
Gregoire said the settlement money will be divided into separate funds to benefit residential energy users and business customers.
The Washington Consumer Energy Fund was established at The Seattle Foundation to distribute the consumer portion of the settlement. If direct restitution to consumers is not practical, an indirect method may be chosen. The Foundation will work with an advisory committee to review proposals and determine the best use of the funds available.
The Attorney General's Office has convened a blue ribbon committee, comprised of business, industry and legislative leaders, to decide how the business restitution funds will be spent.
Gregoire said it looks doubtful that the state will be able to get a settlement from Enron, one of the biggest players in the price manipulation scheme. The company has filed for bankruptcy.
Final decisions on the distribution of money from both funds are expected by late summer, 2004.
More information about the Washington Consumer Energy Fund can be found at www.seattlefoundation.org.