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Nov 15, 2002

CONTACT: Doug Heller - 310-392-0522 x309

Another Energy Crisis Smoking Gun: Document Reveals Williams Colluded With AES to Endanger System Reliability and Keep California Prices High

Consumer Group Says Cal. AG Lockyer Should Prosecute, Long Term Contract With Williams Should Be Scrapped
Santa Monica, CA --Energy trader Williams Cos. conspired with energy generator AES to keep power plants offline in order to increase the cost of electricity in California by more than 1000% during the state's foray into deregulation, according to documents released yesterday by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The documents reveal tape recorded conversations between Williams and AES officials in which they discuss keeping power plants down longer than necessary because Williams could then sell power from other plants at a much higher price.

"This is yet another smoking gun proving that Californians were robbed by the energy companies. These documents are more evidence that the crime was happening throughout the industry and not just at Enron," said Doug Heller, senior consumer advocate with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). "California ratepayers have twenty years of debt as a result of the scheming by Williams, AES and the others who treated energy deregulation as a license to steal. These companies should be required to repay every dime they stole plus interest and penalties and then they should be shut down."

Earlier this week, Governor Davis announced that a long term power contract between the state and Williams had been renegotiated. The new pact, which was criticized by consumer groups, does not go into effect until December 15th, pending a state review. Consumer advocates with FTCR said that, with the new information, the contract should be abrogated. FTCR added that California Attorney General Bill Lockyer should prosecute Williams and AES for their unconscionable behavior.

"If a state contractor was scamming the state you wouldn't renegotiate their contract, you'd arrest them. The same standard should apply to these corporations which stole billions of dollars from California ratepayers," said Heller. "During the deregulation disaster Williams constantly told lawmakers and regulators that their practices were above board and their prices were justified because of an electricity shortage in California. In fact, they were lying and intentionally manipulating the power market to gouge California businesses and consumers. They must now be brought to justice."


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