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Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Attorney General's Office set to aid PUD in Enron battle
By Diane Brooks
The PUD, Attorney General Christine Gregoire and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., planned a joint press conference at the utility's Everett headquarters to outline the latest assault against the bankrupt energy-trading company.
Gregoire was expected to participate via speaker phone, discussing "new developments to obtain rate relief and protect customers who were harmed by Enron's fraudulent activities," said Gregoire spokeswoman Maureen Scharber.
The PUD prematurely ended a nine-year electricity contract with Enron in November 2001, after revelations that the Texas-based company had manipulated energy markets during the 2000-01 crisis. Enron seeks a $122 million contract-termination fee.
The PUD today plans to file papers with the Washington, D.C., offices of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), seeking clarification of a recent federal order that could squash the Enron lawsuit.
Two weeks ago, FERC ordered Enron to refund $32.5 million to Southwestern utilities affected by the company's activities in 2000 and 2001. FERC also asked an administrative law judge to review whether Enron must release profits earned between January 1997 and June 2003. The PUD entered into its Enron contract in January 2001, so the PUD claims the $122 million penalty would amount to an unfair profit.
The PUD has emerged as a major player in the effort to hold Enron accountable for its role in the energy crisis, allegedly rigging energy markets while California was suffering blackouts and Northwest customers were paying double rates.
Two months ago, the PUD released tapes of phone calls between Enron day-traders, obtained during U.S. Justice Department raids of Enron offices. The traders callously jested about their strategies to bilk "Grandma Millie," artificially inflating electricity prices with schemes dubbed "donkey punch," "pingpong" and "fat boy."
The "ricochet" scam, for instance, involved buying excess energy from a California utility, concealing its original source and then selling it back to the same utility at an inflated price.
PUD officials analyzed hundreds of pages of Enron financial documents, concluding the company made more than $1.1 billion by manipulating markets during the energy crisis. About 88 percent of Enron's energy trades between January 2000 and June 2001 involved price-gouging schemes, the PUD estimated.
Diane Brooks: 425-745-7802 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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