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San Diego Consumer Group, Four Law Firms File Class Action for Electric Rate Refunds

San Diego Consumer Group, Four Law Firms File Class Action for Electric Rate Refunds

Joining in the feeding frenzy that has become California's electricity rate debate, a San Diego-based utility consumer group and four law firms last week filed (Nov. 29) in Superior Court in San Diego a class action lawsuit against 13 major generators, marketers and energy trading companies, the veritable "who's who" of the state's electricity market.

Calling itself an anti-trust legal consortium, the consumer group and legal firms on behalf of the electric customers of San Diego Gas and Electric Co. are seeking at least $1 billion in what it calls "overpayments" to the utility caused by "deliberate manipulation of prices in California's electricity market" by the 14 companies.

"This is a consumer class action suit designed to get our money back," said Michael Shames, a lawyer and head of the San Diego-based Utility Consumer Action Network, which has been appearing at state regulatory and legislative sessions for two decades as one of the state's most active utility watchdog groups. "The defendants "unlawfully manipulated the market by fixing prices and restricting supply into the markets operated by the California Power Exchange (Cal-PX) and the California Independent System Operator."

The 13 companies named are: Dynegy Power Marketing, Inc.; Enron Energy Services; Enron Power Marketing, Inc.; PG&E Energy Trading; Reliant Energy Services, Inc.; Sempra Energy Trading; Sempra Energy Resources: Southern Company Energy Marketing; Williams Energy Marketing and Trading; Williams Energy Services Company; Duke Energy Trading and Marketing LLC; NRG Energy; and Morgan Stanley Capital Group, Inc.

Spokespeople for Enron and a number of other companies echoed the same response that the suit is without merit and separate state and federal investigations have not found any evidence the market was manipulated.

Richard Nemec, Los Angeles

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