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Oregon utility to refund $59 million to California

Portland General settles claims by state agencies and power firms that it charged too much in the 2000-01 energy crisis.

March 13, 2007|Elizabeth Douglass | Times Staff Writer

Portland General Electric Co. agreed Monday to pay $59 million to settle accusations that the Oregon utility overcharged Californians for electricity during the state's energy crisis.

Portland General, which had agreed to a smaller partial settlement a few years ago, would pay a total of about $65 million under the two refund agreements, according to a statement issued late Monday by Southern California Edison.

The pact resolves refund claims brought by the California Public Utilities Commission, the state Electricity Oversight Board, the Department of Water Resources and the state attorney general's office along with utilities Pacific Gas & Electric Co., San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and Edison. The agreement must be approved by federal regulators.

Representatives from the Portland-based utility didn't respond to calls seeking comment.

It is the latest in a string of refunds awarded to Californians through legal battles over how much the state and its utilities overpaid for electricity during the 2000-01 energy crisis -- a time when the cost of power soared, in part because some traders were manipulating the state's power market.

The Oregon company, which was owned during the energy crisis by Enron Corp., wasn't accused of market abuse, said Erik Saltmarsh, executive director and chief counsel of the California Electricity Oversight Board. But, he said, "Portland General had some surplus power, and during the height of the energy crisis it sold the energy to California at really, really high prices."

Edison said it expected to receive about $15 million from the new pact and would adjust customer rates to reflect the refund. PG&E would get about $34 million, San Diego Gas & Electric would receive about $6 million and the remainder would go to other participants. Portland General would receive $27 million for some power that was sold during the crisis but for which payment had been withheld.

To date, California refunds for power bought on the spot market have totaled more than $3.8 billion, Saltmarsh said. Several cases have yet to be resolved.

elizabeth.douglass@latimes.com

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