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PUC Seeks Federal Aid to Gain Data in Pricing Probe

November 07, 2000|NANCY RIVERA BROOKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The state Public Utilities Commission, which is investigating whether electricity generators profiteered in the California market this summer, said the power-plant owners are refusing to produce key documents and asked federal regulators for help.

In a filing Monday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the PUC asked the federal commission to force several generators to respond to subpoenas for documents about their finances, costs and electricity trades.

The generators have refused to produce the documents partly because they contend that the PUC's protective order is not strong enough to keep this competitively sensitive material out of the hands of other market players.

The PUC motion targets six corporations that own most of the power plants in California: AES Corp., Duke Energy Corp., Dynegy Inc., Reliant Energy Inc., Southern Co. and Williams Cos. AES has produced some of the documents the PUC seeks, but the other companies have not, the commission said in its filing.

A Dynegy spokesman said the Houston-based energy company was studying the motion, which was filed late Monday, and could not comment. Representatives of the other companies could not be reached for comment.

In its motion, the PUC said it was "astonished at the level of opposition . . . from the generators."

The federal agency last week said its own informal investigation had found no evidence that California's record wholesale electricity prices since June were caused by individual companies manipulating the market. The PUC complained in its filing that unless the agency compels the generators to immediately provide the requested information, the California regulators will not be able to substantiate charges of market-power abuse.

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