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Sempra Settlement Is Opposed

April 15, 2006|From Bloomberg News

California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer said Sempra Energy's proposed $1.7-billion settlement of an antitrust lawsuit brought by customers might prevent the state from seeking a separate recovery.

California agencies, which are not part of the settlement, have $1 billion in claims against Sempra related to the California energy crisis in 2000 and 2001, said Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for Lockyer. Utilities owned by PG&E Corp. and Edison International also filed objections to the settlement Thursday.

Sempra Energy, the owner of the largest U.S. natural gas utility, said Jan. 4 that it had agreed to settle lawsuits accusing it of conspiring to thwart competition in the natural gas market and driving up energy prices. The settlement would resolve claims by the cities of L.A. and Long Beach and class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of California natural gas consumers.

"The releases provided in the proposed settlement agreement are overbroad, potentially obstructing proceedings against Sempra entities," Lockyer said in a preliminary objection filed Thursday in San Diego County Superior Court.

Lockyer shouldn't be able to pursue claims that are related or similar to those that are being settled, Sempra spokesman Doug Kline said in a telephone interview. Insofar as Lockyer seeks to represent the same customers that are part of the settlement, there can't be any "double dipping," Kline said.

Pierce O'Donnell, an attorney for the plaintiffs, didn't return a call to his office.

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