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Industry News

FERC Releases Memos Linking Enron and California Electricity Crisis

LCG, May 7, 2002--While one might try to avoid speculating and sensationalizing regarding Enron and last year's California electricity market, FERC's release is too much to pass up.

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released two Enron memos yesterday. Written on Stoel Rives LLP law firm stationary and sent to Enron Vice President and Assistant General Counsel Richard Sanders, these notes detailed trading strategies, which were dubbed with such names as "Death Star"and "Get Shorty."

One strategy, called "Inc- ing," called for Enron to instigate "phantom congestion" by presenting impractical trading schedules, at which point the unsuspecting California Independent System Operator (ISO) would pay Enron to relieve the congestion.

"Ricocheting" is what the memos called the process of moving electricity out of state and out of the domain of price-caps so that it could be resold to California at prices above the cap, which was not applied to electricity coming from out-of-state. "Fat Boy" involved buying California power at $250/MWh and selling it out-of-state for as high as $1,200/MWh.

While these memos were dated December 6th and 8th, 2000, a third undated memo was also released, using law firm Brobeck Phleger & Harrison LLO letterhead. This third memo refers to the first two memos as beneficial market strategies aimed at providing increased supply and relieving congestion.

All of the memos referred to the high-risk nature of Enron's strategies and indicated that other electricity traders were adopting Enron's strategies.

FERC has also released evidence that it sought more information from Enron; a letter was sent from FERC requesting a list of energy traders and documentation of electricity and natural gas trading strategies.

The ISO is still going over documents and insists that this release supports the need to maintain price controls beyond the Sept 30 end date. FERC has said that the price cap will expire but intends to instate some type of price regulation system.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she will request U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to begin a criminal investigation. FERC began its investigation in February after pressure from Western legislators, including Feinstein.

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