2 Energy Firms Dispute Price-Influence Claims

From Times Wire Services

Two wholesale electricity suppliers Thursday disputed allegations by California officials that the companies manipulated prices by deliberately withholding power to create false shortages during the state's energy crisis from May 2000 through June 2001.

Mirant Corp. and Duke Energy Corp. argued in filings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and in news releases that they acted within the law during the crisis, which led to rolling blackouts and skyrocketing wholesale power prices.

Thursday was the deadline for companies to submit their rebuttals to FERC in response to California's filing of more than 3,000 documents that the state says support a claim for more than $7.5 billion in refunds. A ruling by FERC is expected Wednesday.

In its filing with the regulator, Atlanta-based Mirant said it "acted ethically and within the bounds of the California market design during the state's energy crisis."

Duke dismissed California's claims as being based on "erroneous data ... computational mistakes and ... faulty assumptions," not facts.

Duke had a lower rate of forced outages than a benchmark used by California parties and "provided virtually every megawatt of power that was economic to generate," the company based in Charlotte, N.C., said.

Separately, the publisher of two energy trade journals has refused to turn over subpoenaed documents to a state Senate committee investigating the energy crisis, citing the 1st Amendment and California's Shield Law.

Attorneys for McGraw-Hill, publisher of Inside FERC and Gas Daily, filed the response to the subpoena Wednesday. The journals publish daily price indices that are used to calculate other transactions in both gas and electricity.

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