Californians Could Get $1.3 Billion Refund In Energy Ruling
SAN FRANCISCO - A U.S. appeals-court ruling on Friday could open the way for more than $1 billion in refunds to Californians who experienced power outages and soaring energy prices in 2001, state prosecutors said.
The decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco found that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission abused its discretion in denying refunds for energy bought in the Pacific Northwest and consumed in California.
The panel ordered the case back to the commission to reconsider its denial of refunds that California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. said could total $1.3 billion.
The ruling "is a major victory for California ratepayers," Brown said in a statement, adding that regulators should "promptly refund the more than $1 billion that was stolen from the people of California."
The case stems from a series of power black-outs and alleged price-gouging by energy companies in 2000 and 2001 after California deregulated electricity in 1996. The largest potential refund-payers are Powerex Corp, Sempra Energy, TransAlta Power LP and TransCanada Corp, among others, according to the California attorney general's office, one of several parties seeking refunds in the case.
The appeals court's ruling orders the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reconsider its 2003 order denying refunds for energy purchases in the Pacific Northwest spot market, including energy used in California.
The energy commission had argued that the appeals court lacked jurisdiction in the case. The court disagreed, saying the agency had made itself subject to the court's jurisdiction when it took steps to enforce the law.
(Reporting by Philipp Gollner)