Federal energy regulators seldom seem to do their jobs until the state of California gives them a swift kick. This time, state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer had to deliver a Florsheim to the fanny of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Patrick H. Wood III, in the form of a lawsuit against Enron Corp.
True to form, FERC officials ignored recordings that demonstrated the outrageous tactics Enron traders used to game the California energy market -- until Lockyer's suit made it difficult to keep pretending they didn't exist. During the height of the state's energy meltdown, traders boasted of creating false congestion on power lines, ignoring price caps and promising to make available power that the company never intended to deliver. They even invented a name for their fictional victim: Grandma Millie. As Lockyer said Thursday, "Grandma Millie ought to get her money back."
The tapes build upon evidence that California officials have been accumulating since the energy market meltdown of 2000-2001. Past investigations produced strong evidence of trading schemes that Enron and other energy companies used to manipulate wholesale power prices, forcing Californians to endure roving blackouts and sky-high utility bills. The latest tapes and transcripts, released as part of a Washington state utility's lawsuit against Enron, describe even more schemes, with names like Ping Pong, Donkey Punch and Russian Roulette.