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Dismissal of Utility Suit Upheld

September 11, 2004|From Associated Press

A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Friday refused to reinstate a Washington state public utility's class-action lawsuit that claimed power companies illegally drove up electricity prices during California's energy crisis four years ago.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Snohomish Public Utility District's complaint should be handled by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, not a court.

The commission also has ruled against the utility, which has claimed that the companies violated California's antitrust and unfair-competition laws and manipulated Western wholesale power markets.

"FERC has exclusive juris- diction over interstate sales of wholesale electricity," Judge Mary M. Schroeder wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel. She wrote that the commission's jurisdiction includes California wholesale power markets.

"Therefore, if the prices in those markets were not just and reasonable.... Snohomish's only option is to seek a remedy before FERC," Schroeder wrote. She also noted that FERC had already punished many wholesalers for manipulating markets.

The ruling upholds a lower-court judge's decision.

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