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Federal court rules electricity rebates are due in California

April 04, 2013|By Marc Lifsher
  • Electric transmission lines run through the rural Panoche Valley in southeastern San Benito County. A federal court has found two government power agencies liable for as much as $2 billion in overcharges to California ratepayers.
Electric transmission lines run through the rural Panoche Valley in southeastern… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

SACRAMENTO -- A federal court this week ruled that two government power agencies are liable for overcharging California ratepayers by more than $1 billion during the state's energy crisis of 2000 and 2001.

The California Public Utilities Commission, which has been pursuing the overcharging claims for 11 years, announced that the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington, D.C., ruled that the Bonneville Power Administration and Western Area Power Administration sold electricity at extremely high prices. California at the time was desperate for power to contain a series of rolling brownouts and blackouts.

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The court's ruling, combined with a similar finding in March 2012, could leave the two federal agencies liable for more than $2 billion in rebates to California power consumers. The exact amount of the liability will be determined by an upcoming trial, the PUC said.

In a related decision in February, an administrative law judge at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found that about a dozen private energy companies overcharged California by about $1 billion. The decision will go before FERC for ratification later this year.

"These are tremendous victories for California," PUC President Michael Peevey said. "We will continue to fight in court and at FERC to obtain justice for California consumers who were ripped off during the energy crisis."

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