Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced the terms of a settlement agreement with the Williams Companies, Inc. and the Williams Energy Marketing and Trading Company (Williams). Oregon will receive $15 million and will end its investigation of Williams' actions during the West Coast energy crisis. The investigation will continue with respect to other potentially culpable businesses.
"This settlement is yet another significant breakthrough in our investigation into the skyrocketing prices that rocked the West Coast power market in 2000 and 2001," Myers said. "We are committed to uncovering the complex schemes used to manipulate the market and taking steps to ensure that such actions never occur again."
In January 2001, the attorneys general of Oregon, Washington and California initiated a coordinated investigation into allegations of price manipulation and antitrust violations in the Western power market. As part of the settlement, Williams has agreed to cooperate with the attorneys general as they continue to scrutinize the practices of other companies involved in the wholesale energy market.
Investigators from the Oregon Department of Justice have already been to Williams' headquarters in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to begin scouring records for any additional information that may help link other companies to violations of state and federal laws. The Department of Justice, working with the Oregon Public Utility Commission and Oregon Office of Energy, previously identified unethical and likely unlawful market practices by various market participants that include purposely congesting transmission lines, "wash" sales and other schemes designed to drive up the prices of wholesale electricity.
Myers expressed optimism that today's settlement will facilitate agreements with other energy suppliers.
"Williams is one of many players in the marketplace," Myers said. "I hope this settlement provides a spark for other companies to come to the table and find reasonable remedies for Oregon ratepayers."
Under the terms of the agreement, Oregon will receive $15 million distributed over the next three years. Exact details of the distribution program will be established by Myers in consultation with an advisory committee that he will appoint in the near future.
Kevin Neely, (503) 229-5725 x294 (Nov. 11 - before 3:30pm)
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