Nevada senator calls for resignation of two FERC appointees

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LAS VEGAS (AP) - Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is calling for the resignation of two federal energy regulators, saying they've failed to protect consumers from market manipulations by Enron Corp. officials who backed their appointment.

Reid said in a Senate speech Monday that if the four-member Federal Energy Regulatory Commission doesn't act soon to vacate inflated contracts that utilities signed with Enron during the 2000-01 Western energy crisis, two commissioners who were favored by the collapsed energy trading firm should quit.

"We know that two of the FERC commissioners were recommended by Ken Lay," Reid said, referring to the former Enron chief executive indicted last week on charges he hid losses and debt problems at the Houston company. Lay has declared his innocence on the charges.

Patrick Wood, a member of the Texas Public Utility Commission, and Nora Brownell, a state utility commissioner in Pennsylvania, were appointed to FERC after Lay, a friend and Bush campaign contributor, recommended them to the incoming administration in January and February of 2001.

Reid did not mention Wood or Brownell by name in his speech, but his staff drew attention to Enron documents on the matter.

"If FERC cannot clean up Enron's mess while they are on the commission, they should step down," Reid said. "Our nation must have energy markets that function properly."

Enron won a $336 million judgment against Nevada Power Co. and Sierra Pacific Power Co. after Enron terminated the contracts. The two utilities have been trying to get FERC to invalidate the contracts, charging they were signed as Enron was rigging energy markets and prices.

Utilities in other Western states also are urging FERC to order refunds on overcharges stemming from Enron actions to manipulate electricity supplies.

Reid said the fallout from the Enron scandal is hampering investment in solar and geothermal power, energy sources he has promoted for development in Nevada.

"Because of exorbitant contracts with Enron, our utilities are almost bankrupt," Reid said.

"As a result, companies that want to develop renewable energy and sell it to these utilities have not been able to attract the investment they need," he added.

Reid noted Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn is planning to ask the state Legislature to create a temporary energy development trust that would provide financial protection to renewable energy power plants in the state.


Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal,


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