Let's see now -- the Chairman of FERC was previously appointed by G.W. to the Texas state utility commission -- at the behest of Enron -- and now he's going to "investigate" Enron's activity in California. And how many Enron-Bushies are among the SEC, CFTC and Justice Dept. "investigators" who will join FERC in this little P.R. show?
And to think that the average 80%-favorable-to-Bush American will view this as a responsible reaction to the Enron scandal... when in truth it's about as deep a cover-up as there's ever been. They're dragging their feet so the shredders can shred and the dollars can fly to Switzerland and the Caymans.
Sleep tight, America....
FERC to Probe Enron Role in Calif. Market
Wed Feb 13, 5:17 PM ET
By Chris Baltimore
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bowing to pressure from Democrats, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (news - web sites) on Wednesday launched a probe into whether bankrupt energy trader Enron Corp. and others inflated California electricity prices last year and triggered state blackouts.
FERC Chairman Pat Wood described the probe as a "fact-finding" measure to determine whether any energy company manipulated wholesale electricity or natural gas supplies to the nation's most populous state.
Wood, a Texas Republican, was appointed to the agency by President Bush (news - web sites) at the urging of Enron's top executive.
West Coast Democrats had prodded FERC to take a more aggressive look at the ten-fold spike in wholesale power prices last year that triggered a series of blackouts and the bankruptcy of the state's largest utility.
Senators Barbara Boxer of California and Maria Cantwell of Washington last month demanded that the agency examine Enron's role during the months of runaway prices. Enron was among a half-dozen firms which sold electricity to state utilities.
Bankrupt Enron, until recently the world's biggest energy trader, has denied any wrongdoing.
Wood dismissed criticism from some Democrats that he is too close to Enron.
"I'm an independent guy," Wood told reporters. As a new FERC commissioner last summer, Wood's first vote was to impose price caps on the Western energy market, a move he said was "clearly totally antithetical to Enron's point of view."
A FERC administrative judge is overseeing a separate case over California's demand for billion in wholesale power refunds. No decision is expected until at least August.
In that case, California and its two largest utilities contend that Enron and other power marketers overcharged for electricity deliveries during 2001 and pocketed huge profits while the state spent billions of dollars to buy power.
SEC, CFTC TO JOIN PROBE
FERC will work with the Securities and Exchange Commission (news - web sites), the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and the Justice Department (news - web sites) in its probe of possible price-gouging, Wood said.
The FERC probe will be a "broad investigation" and will include a close look at EnronOnline, the bankrupt company's Internet trading unit, he said. EnronOnline was a widely used trading platform for energy products until Enron's collapse.
The agency's general counsel will have subpoena power to compel testimony from Enron executives and employees, if necessary, Wood told reporters after a FERC meeting.
The agency will prepare a report on its findings for Congress this summer, he said.
"We want to understand the whole story and it's going to take a bigger effort than we have already done," Wood added.
The SEC, Justice, Labor Department (news - web sites) and Treasury Department (news - web sites) have each launched investigations into Enron's financial and pension activities. Several House and Senate panels are also examining the company's complex accounting methods which sought to keep debt off the books.
EnronOnline was bought by UBS Warburg and trading is due to resume in a few weeks. UBS is owned by Switzerland's biggest bank UBS AG , which has said it will not be responsible for Enron's past liabilities or trading positions.
FERC RALLIES BEHIND WOOD
Wood, who was appointed to FERC last year, has been criticized by some lawmakers for being too close to the company. As Texas governor, Bush named Wood to the state public utility commission at the behest of Enron.
Democrats have also raised questions about Bush's ties to Enron, whose top executives were among the biggest contributors to his presidential campaign.
FERC's two Democratic commissioners expressed support for Wood and sought to defuse the criticism.
"I consider you to be one of the most public-spirited officials that I have dealt with in my 22 years in Washington," said William Massey, a Democrat appointed to FERC by former President Bill Clinton. Massey was an outspoken critic of the former FERC chairman, Curtis Hebert, who last year echoed Enron's opposition to any form of price caps to rein in California's electricity prices.
Linda Breathitt, also a Democrat, said Wood had her "full vote of confidence."
Sen. Boxer, meanwhile, has also asked FERC to produce a list of meetings and telephone calls with Enron officials.
"They keep saying it's coming. They won't give me a date certain," Boxer said on Tuesday. "I hope that FERC won't stonewall us the same way Enron has."