California’s financially troubled utilities dodged a bulletearlier this week when the Senate defeated an amendment that wouldhave required them to repay suppliers for all of the power theyreceived as a result of the Department of Energy orders during theDecember-through-February period, even if they go bankrupt.
By 67-30, the Senate voted down the amendment that Sen. DianneFeinstein (D-CA) insisted would have opened the floodgates toinvoluntary bankruptcy filings against the state’s two debt-riddenutilities, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric.Joining her in opposition to the measure were the Senate’s energybigwigs – Sens. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) sought to attach the amendment to abroader bankruptcy reform bill. Specifically, the intent of themeasure was to protect customers of Bonneville Power Administration(BPA) and other Northwest utilities from unfair rate hikes in theevent the California utilities declare bankruptcy.
A spokeswoman indicated yesterday that Wyden and co-sponsor Sen.Max Baucus (D-MT), as well as the amendment’s other supporters,aren’t about to give up on it yet. They”plan to continue theirefforts to protect Northwest ratepayers,” she said.
“I don’t think it’s fair for consumers in other western statesto get caught holding the bag if California utilities take ourpower and then run into bankruptcy court to avoid their debts,”Wyden said. He estimated that California’s utilities owe the BPAmore than $120 million for DOE-mandated power sales during Decemberthrough February. In addition, he said tens of millions of dollarsare owed to various Northwest utilities.
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