Calif. consumers may see rebate from energy crisis
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California electricity consumers could see $1.6 billion in refunds from energy wholesalers that profited from the state's energy crisis more than a dozen years ago, if an administrative law judge's recommendation holds up under review, regulators said Tuesday.
The California Public Utilities Commission praised the judge's interim ruling as a victory for a state that saw energy prices spike to unprecedented heights amid rolling blackouts in the summer of 2000. The state itself bought billions of dollars' worth of electricity to keep the lights on.
The judge sided with the state in finding that more than a dozen electricity wholesalers artificially drove up energy prices.
"There was massive manipulation going on in the market by virtually all these sellers," said Frank Lindh, the commission's general counsel. "This is fabulous news for California. It's really a vindication for us."
The commission calculated the potential rebates from a formula adopted by the judge in a decision issued Friday. The recommendation now goes before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
If commissioners agree, the decision then must survive a likely court challenge by the wholesalers.
One of those is the Bonneville Power Administration, based in Portland, Ore. Spokesman Michael Hansen said the utility is "disappointed" with the recommendation but would have no more comment until it reviews the decision.
Other electricity wholesalers found liable in the judge's ruling could not immediately be reached.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison, both of which had to buy power at inflated prices during the energy crisis, also could not immediately comment. Edison spokeswoman Lauren Bartlett said the company was still reviewing the 72-page decision by Presiding Administrative Law Judge Philip Baten.