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Thursday, Jun 13, 2024
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Editorial Normality: Returning to old villains

President George W. Bush has urged Americans to get back to our normal lives. As if in response to that message, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has brought back to mind those who earned our wrath prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks: the nation’s price-gouging energy producers.

Last week, FERC commissioners ordered several producers of electricity to make refunds to California and 10 other Western states for charging excessive prices.

Those states are covered by federal wholesale price caps put in place last April. If prices rise above those caps, producers have to show FERC justification for the higher costs.

The refunds ordered last week , the amount of which has not been released at this writing , were for overcharges incurred in July and are not connected to the nearly $9 billion in overcharges California Gov. Gray Davis says producers gouged Californians for in the year before the federal caps were put in place.

Nevertheless, those ordered to refund money were the same names we became familiar with during the energy crisis , Dynegy Power Marketing Inc., Reliant Energy Services, Inc., Mirant Americas Energy Marketing LP and others.

In virtually each case, FERC commissioners said the producers failed to show any justification for charging prices exceeding the caps. This harkens back to the producers’ repeated failures to justify charging Californians wholesale prices that were as much as 1,000 times the normal rate for electricity the instant the state’s energy deregulation law became effective.

FERC’s actions show we can’t afford to let these difficult times , with a war being waged against terrorism, and a lagging economy , blind us to the actions of those with a history of abusing the marketplace. As the president said, we must return to business as usual , and that means remaining vigilant against those who threaten our economic stability from within as well as those who threaten it from afar.

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