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Boxer Backs Refunds for Electricity

June 17, 2004|From Bloomberg News

California Sen. Barbara Boxer on Wednesday formally asked President Bush to force federal energy regulators to stop fighting claims from California consumers stemming from the state's 2000-01 energy crisis.

Boxer, a two-term Democrat, said in a letter to Bush that he should seek the resignation of any commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who opposes the state's $8.9-billion claim for refunds from Enron Corp. and other power companies. Boxer spoke to reporters after a meeting with FERC Chairman Patrick H. Wood III.

"FERC should change its public policy, which is to fight California consumers every step of the way," Boxer said.

Enron's dealings in the Western U.S. power markets have come under renewed scrutiny from members of Congress following the release of taped conversations between Enron traders and company financial documents. The tapes capture discussions on ways to manipulate energy markets.

The records were subpoenaed by the municipal utility in Snohomish County, Wash., which is being sued by Enron for canceling a long-term power supply contract with the energy company. Those records were delivered to the commission's Washington offices Monday.

The documents released in the lawsuit show that Enron overcharged customers in the Western U.S. by $1.1 billion during the 2000 to 2001 energy crisis.

The commission revoked Enron's license to trade power and natural gas in 2003.

Regulators accused the company of manipulating energy prices in California in 2000 and 2001. Two former Enron traders, Timothy Belden and Jeffrey Richter, have pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges related to power trading in California.

Houston-based Enron, once the largest energy trader, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2001 and hasn't been actively trading since.

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