California energy company to issue $410 million in refunds

The Sacramento BeeApril 29, 2010 

Nine years after the last rolling blackout, California consumers are going to get $410 million worth of refunds from a San Diego energy conglomerate accused of using Enron-style tactics to gouge customers during the energy crisis.

Sempra Energy agreed Wednesday to issue the refunds to settle allegations that it manipulated electricity supplies and prices. Among the customers: Sempra's own subsidiary, San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

Sempra spokesman Doug Kline said the refunds will come via lower electricity rates for customers of Pacific Gas and Electric Co., SDG&E and Southern California Edison.

It's not clear when the lower rates will kick in, or how much benefit the average household will receive. PG&E's electric service territory includes about 220,000 households and businesses in Yolo, Placer and El Dorado counties.

"The settlements will put hundreds of millions of dollars back into the pockets of California energy consumers who suffered blackouts and great economic harm during the energy crisis," said Attorney General Jerry Brown in a news release. He and the Public Utilities Commission negotiated the deal, which requires approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Along with an earlier settlement, Sempra has now agreed to pay more than $700 million over its conduct during the energy crisis.

All told, the state has secured refunds totaling more than $3.2 billion from energy suppliers – or about one-third of the amount it says Californians were overcharged when the state's electricity deregulation plan went haywire. Brown spokesman Jim Finefrock said the state is still pursuing cases against several other big sellers.

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