Los Angeles, CA–(NGI News)–Nov 26, 2003–A California Superior Court in San Diego is expected to rule the first week of December in the $1.6 billion settlement between El Paso Corp. and four western states, the principal one being California. Two separate court approvals are needed before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission-approved deal can be made final, both of which could come before the end of the year.

A spokesperson for California’s Attorney General’s Office that has pushed numerous energy-related legal actions in the past three years said the state court okay is expected by Dec. 7, but the AG has not yet asked for a hearing in a federal district court related to the El Paso settlement. After the state court acts, the AG will seek the federal court resolution.

The state court must okay the FERC-approved settlement because some of it involved class action lawsuits on behalf of ratepayers that were filed in the San Diego County-based state court. The additional federal court okay is also needed to cover earlier anti-trust complaints brought by the California AG’s Office against El Paso.

A hearing before Superior Court Judge J. Richard Haden was held last week (Nov. 20) to conduct oral arguments in the case that stems from allegations that El Paso withheld capacity on its interstate gas transmission pipelines serving California, contributing to the unprecedented wholesale natural gas and electricity price spikes in 2000-2001 throughout the West. El Paso has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing both before and after the settlement.

Earlier this month, FERC okayed the deal, which includes the AGs from the states of Washington, Oregon and Nevada, in addition to California. However, for the settlement to be valid needs rulings from the state and federal courts in San Diego where the related legal actions against El Paso and others were filed, in addition to FERC. More than $1 billion of the $1.6 billion deal is slated to go to California.

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