April 19, 2002
FERC: Enron data 'is of no value' in probe
By TOBY ECKERT
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON – Enron Corp. has failed to provide vital
information to federal regulators probing claims of price
manipulation of West Coast energy prices, causing "a serious
impediment" to the investigation, a federal official said
Among the data missing is information about transactions by
Enron affiliates. At a Senate hearing last week, California's top
utility regulator and a consumer activist said that five Enron
affiliates traded huge amounts of electricity with each other to
drive up wholesale prices during California's power crisis.
The affiliate transactions are "one of the most important aspects of the information request" by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Donald J. Gelinas, a FERC official, wrote in a sternly worded letter to an attorney representing the bankrupt energy trading company.
"I have been informed by my staff that the information you have
supplied is of no value."
His letter was posted on FERC's Web site.
Enron's failure to "flag" affiliate transactions in information it did provide to FERC "is a particularly egregious omission," Gelinas wrote.
Sam Behrends, the Enron attorney, said the company is still
working to provide all the data FERC wants.
"We gave them a vast amount of information and they have
objected to a small subset. This is the most difficult information
to get to them technologically," Behrends said.
In his letter to Behrends, Gelinas complained that "At no time
did you indicate to my staff that Enron's response would contain
deficiencies of such breadth and magnitude."
Enron failed to provide transactions by one affiliate, Portland
General Electric, even though the affiliate reported sending the
information to Enron's Houston headquarters more than two
weeks ago, said Gelinas, associate director of FERC's office of
markets, tariffs and rates.
He said that Enron Power Marketing was the only affiliate to give even information.
Gelinas gave the company until April 26 to provide all the data
requested and said FERC will send two information technology
specialists to Enron's headquarters to work on the matter.
Behrends said FERC had already sent such technicians and they
"have been given complete access" to company databases.
FERC launched its investigation in February, shortly after
Commission Chairman Pat Wood heard claims at another Senate
hearing that Enron manipulated electricity and gas prices on the
West Coast. Enron has repeatedly denied the charge.
On March 5, Gelinas directed all wholesale power sellers in the
West to provide detailed sales information to FERC for 2000 and
2001. Responses were due April 2.
Enron did not make its submission until Monday, according to
Gelinas. Even then, there were numerous omissions and
reporting problems, he complained. Last week, California Public
Utilities Commission President Loretta Lynch told a Senate
subcommittee that five Enron affiliates, including Portland
General Electric, traded more than 11.9 million megawatt hours
of electricity with each other during the last three months of
2000. Prices went as high as $3,322 per megawatt hour, she
Wenonah Hauter of the consumer group Public Citizen
highlighted similar trades during the first three months of 2001.
The company did give FERC staffers limited access to an Enron
transaction database on April 2, along with a list of files where
raw data on transactions could be found. But they are of "no use
to my staff, since queries of the data cannot be saved," Gelinas
"The deficiencies of Enron's response signal a breakdown in
supervision and quality control and are a serious impediment to
the commission's investigation in this proceeding," he added. "As you know, the results of this fact-finding investigation are to be reported to Congress. Your non-compliance endangers our
ability to prepare a thorough and timely response to Congress."