Calif., El Paso Settle Request for Records

Times Staff Writer

In an out-of-court settlement, California officials investigating power prices during the 2000-01 energy crisis have withdrawn their request for records from Houston-based El Paso Corp.

Under the deal, El Paso agreed to provide California with at least some company documents the state had sought by subpoena. In turn, El Paso withdrew its motion to quash California's subpoena, said Tom Dresslar, spokesman for California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer.

El Paso executives did not immediately return calls for comment.

California has been trying to assemble evidence of manipulation in its energy market during a 100-day discovery period approved in November by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. That time period will conclude at the end of February.

The state sought records from El Paso, the nation's largest natural gas pipeline company, in a bid to show that El Paso traders provided phony information to trade publications. But El Paso last week asked a FERC judge to quash California's subpoena for records.

Those records included recordings of 140 telephone conversations taped by El Paso employees, "in which plans to provide false data to trade publications are discussed," according to the subpoena.

El Paso argued that the subpoena was wrongly aimed at the company, which is not directly involved in California's claim for energy overcharges, and that instead it should have gone to its subsidiary, El Paso Merchant Energy, which did business in California.

El Paso officials also claimed that the California request was too sweeping.

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