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RTO Car Talk – November 14, 2003 Edition ********** ANOTHER BLACKOUT A week ago, Chile's national tx grid croaked, leaving most of the country without power for about three hours in the early evening. A big generating plant abruptly tripped off line, followed by a smaller second plant. The power coordinator and Transelec (the grid operator) were in "hectic talks", trying to figure out how to stop the voltage collapse, when an operator shut down the entire 500 kV line "by mistake". Transelec is a unit of Hydro Quebec. Transelec was fined $1.27 million earlier this year for its part in a September '02 blackout that left most of Chile without power. [Ed. note: Apparently NM governor (former DOE sec'ty) Bill Richardson has never ventured to Chile, either.] Sources: Reuters, 11/8/03; Dow Jones Newswires, 11/10/03 (by Patricia San Juan); Reuters, 11/10/03; Dow Jones Newswires, 11/13/03 (by Stephan Kueffner) ********** ENRON STUFF * Shareholders and employees got $25 million set aside for damages (85% of it for shareholders, 15% for employees), and $15 million set aside for their legal costs. The money comes from a Swiss-based int'l umbrella group (AWSC Societe Cooperative) that houses former Arthur Anderson firms and that is being liquidated in Europe. Source: Houston Chronicle, 11/8/03 (by Mary Flood) * Enron sued Citigroup and J.P. Morgan Chase, its two largest creditors, for $32.3 million. This was the amount that they charged Enron for financial advice shortly before Enron croaked. This is Enron's second lawsuit against the two investment banks. Last September, Enron sued to void bankruptcy claims by Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, Merrill Lunch, Deutsche Bank, Barclays and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Source: Bloomberg, 11/12/03 * Enron figures that the legal and accounting costs of its bankruptcy will surpass the $1 billion mark in '06. Source: Houston Chronicle, 11/14/03 (by Eric Berger) * The Enron grand jury returned a sealed indictment last week. Cognoscenti expect that the indictment may contain a money laundering charge, and supersede the earlier 218-count indictment against seven Enron Broadband mugwumps: Ken Rice, Joe Hirko, Kevin Hannon, Scott Yeager, Rex Shelby, Kevin Howard and Michael Krautz. Source: Houston Chronicle, 11/13/03 (by Eric Berger) * James Hecker, a former Arthur Andersen accountant who testified in the Jamie Olis fraud trial (see next item), wrote a song in the late 1990s. It's called "Hotel Kenneth Lay-A", and is sung to the tune of The Eagles' "Hotel California". Opening lyrics: "They're livin' it up at the Hotel Cram It Down Ya. When the suits arrive, bring your alibis." Source:, 11/10/03 ********** CRIMINAL CONVICTION IN DEREG-ville A federal jury deliberated for a mere two hours and found Jamie Olis, former Dynegy tax wizard, guilty of fraud for disguising a $300 million debt as income in order to inflate Dynegy's bottom line. Source: Reuters, 11/13/05 (by C. Bryson Hull) ********** DEREG BEEN BELLY, BELLY GOOD TO EXELON Merry Marketeer Exelon, home of dereg fan Betsy Moler, is still trying to get a special deal from the Illinois legislature if it buys Illinois Power from Dynegy. Exelon wants a state law enacted that would come close to requiring the state regulatory comm'n to approve the merger and authorize both utilities to impose a rate increase from '07 through '10. Exelon's move was checkmated by consumer advocates, environmental groups, competing Merry Marketeers and others. Exelon is expected to hatch a new, improved s cheme sometime soon. [Ed. note: One of the most interesting aspects of this struggle is the exposure of Exelon's "all -in-the-family" arrangements. ComEd serves 70% of the state, and buys its power through long-term contracts from -- *guess who* -- Exelon Generation. Those long-term contracts were inked when power prices were relatively high. Exelon Generation now buys cheaper power on the market to supply ComEd. Thus Exelon makes a tidy sum from ComEd's hapless ratepayers, as well as from Exelon Generation. No wonder Betsy Moler is such a big dereg fan. Life is wonderful when you're an unregulated -- or deregulated -- monopoly.] Sources: Crain's Chicago Business, 11/10/03 (by Steve Daniels); Chicago Tribune, 11/14/03 (by Melita Marie Garza and Carlos Sadovi) ********** THE MONTANA COLUMN * The Delaware bankruptcy court approved the sale of what's left of Touch America (One-Company-Formerly-Known-as-The-Montana-Power-Company) for $28 million to 360networks based in Vancouver, B.C. Source: The Montana Standard, 11/14/03, (by Leslie McCartney) * The Montana governor committed up to $1.2 million to hire outside experts to protect ratepayers' interests in the bankruptcy case of NorthWestern Corp. (The-Other-Company-Formerly-Known-as-The-Montana-Power-Company). Source: The Montana Standard, 11/13/03 (by Charles S. Johnson) * State Democratic legislators have an energy plan that calls for public ownership of Montana's hydro projects and distribution system in order to obtain affordable, reliable power for consumers. Source: Independent Record, 11/11/03 (by Charles S. Johnson) * MDU Resources Group, an investor-owned utility, and Basin Electric Cooperative, a consortium of 26 rural electric co-ops (both based in Bismarck, ND), are joining forces in hopes of buying NorthWestern Corp. Source: The Montana Standard, 11/15/03 (by Jan Falstad) [Ed. note: It's time again to remember FERComm'r Nora Brownell's ludicrous declaration, made a year ago, that Montana took "a good first step" toward dereg. That "good first step" has left the state in ruins, just as dereg did in California, Alberta, Ontario and everywhere else the True Believers foisted it upon the unsuspecting public.] ********** STEP RIGHT UP TO DEREG HEAVEN, FOLKS! * Merry Marketeer TXU, which serves 2.6 million voters in FERC Chairman Pat M. Wood's home state of Texas, loudly announced that it is lowering its rates -- yup, *lowering* its rates in Dereg Utopia -- from 10.2 cents/kWh to 8.9 cents/kWh. Is the Radiant Future here? Has Utopia arrived? Nope. The lower rate is automatic in November, and lasts through May, the season when air conditioners are turned off and loads drop. Competitors such as Merry Marketeer Reliant are furious at TXU's deceptive half-truth, because the same reduction applies to Reliant's rates. [Ed. note: Competitors are furious doubtless because they didn't think of it first. Reliant ought to switch advertising firms.] Source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 11/10/03 (by Dan Piller) * Speaking of Reliant, the company was recently served with subpoenas from U.S. Attorneys in New York, Texas and California investigating its trading activities and price reporting. This is on top of subpoenas issued last summer to Reliant by another U.S. Attorney in California relating to Reliant's energy trading activities. [Ed. note: Dereg sure results in exemplary corporate citizens, CEOs and energy traders.] Source: Platts, 11/12/03 ********** ANOTHER TRADER BITES THE DUST Merry Marketeer Cinergy fired a natural gas trader whose price reporting is under investigation by the Commodity Futures Trading Comm'n. The CFTC began the investigation last July, at which time the trader was put on administrative leave. Sources: Dow Jones Newswires, 11/14/03 (by Jon Kamp); Bloomberg, 11/13/03 (by Jim Polson) ********** FERC'S BUSY BEES No surprises here. By a vote of 2-1 (Massey dissenting), FERC said that California may not void $12 billion worth of long-term power contracts signed with Merry Marketeers Sempra, Dynegy, Mirant and Royal Dutch/Shell Group during the western energy "crisis". Wood and Brownell found no evidence that market manipulation "specifically affected the contracts at issue." Massey thought that "public interest requires that the contracts at issue be reformed." California will appeal the decision. FERC refused to let Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific Power exit their contracts with the likes of Merry Marketeers Enron, Reliant, Morgan Stanley and Mirant. FERC said its decision is in the public interest because it upholds "the sanctity of contracts". Besides, wrote FERC self-righteously, the utilities signed the contracts willingly, "accepting market risks". [Ed. note: Whotta joke. FERC created the market where the risks existed, then forced everybody into it .] FERC approved a $1.6 billion settlement with El Paso Corp. for withholding huge amounts of natural gas during the western energy "crisis". Last year, a FERC administrative law judge found that El Paso had withheld pipeline capacity. California claimed it was overcharged by $3.3 billion for natural gas. The settlement is to be paid through a variety of mechanisms, and was signed with the att'ys gen'l of California, Washington, Oregon and Nevada. Sources: San Jose Mercury News, 11/11/03; Reuters, 11/10/03; San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/13/03 (by Craig D. Rose); Las Vegas Review-Journal, 11/11/03; Reuters, 11/13/03; Reuters, 11/13/03 ********** DEREG's IMPACT ON THE ENERGY INDUSTRY Standard & Poor's Rating Services notes that over the past year, the industry has had an unprecedented number of bankruptcies; a continuing decline in credit quality; and a blackout of historic proportion. The average credit rating for utilities is 'BBB', whereas three years ago it was 'A'. [Ed. note: We owe this economic d estruction to FERC and other True Believers, of course.] True Believers preached that the Market God would take care of power supply. The Market God did, because now, according to reports, far more generation has been built than will be needed for years -- nearly 200,000 MW of new capacity has been added since '99. And the building boom is one reason for the financial ruin of many energy firms. [Ed. note: Have retail rates decreased as a result of the oversupply? Not that I've seen. Dereg does not work in times of scarcity, and now we see that it doesn't work in times of plenty. Dereg doesn't work anywhere, at all, ever.] Sources: Risk Center, 11/12/03 (by Andrew Watt); The Wall Street Journal, 11/11/03 (by Rebecca Smith) ********** RANK, UNSUBSTA NTIATED GOSSIP Word on the street is that BPA wants, on the QT, to join something called the Harvard Energy Group, supposedly Mirant's pro-RTO lobbying outfit.


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