AG McKenna distributes Enron settlement money this week

It’s payback time for Enron, Attorney General Rob McKenna announced yesterday. The Attorney General’s Office sent more than $9 million this week to programs that will benefit utility customers who were gouged by the manufactured energy crisis of 2000-2001.

Enron reportedly made nearly $2 billion in profits from its electricity trading operations in the Western states during 2000 and 2001. Attorneys general from several Westerns states investigated whether Enron traders manipulated the energy market.

The states of Washington, California and Oregon, as well as some California utilities and other organizations, settled with Enron for $1.52 billion in summer 2005.

Nearly $6 million in checks was sent to utilities in Washington. Rather than distribute small refunds to individuals, the money will be used to help reduce heating expenses for low-income households and support weatherization programs that improve heating efficiency. Allocations were made based on the number of customers served by each utility.

Businesses will also benefit from the settlement. A little more than $1.6 million will help fund a Battelle program that teaches commercial building owners how to make their structures more energy-efficient. More than $1.2 million was sent to the Washington State University Extension Energy Program. Experts there conduct energy audits and teach businesses how to become more energy-efficient. Industrial customers benefit from that assistance. Battelle and WSU were chosen as grant recipients by a blue-ribbon committee comprised of stakeholders and legislators.

To date, the Attorney General’s Office has distributed nearly $45 million from its settlements with Duke Energy, El Paso, Reliant, Williams and, now, Enron.

“How fitting that Enron will pay to provide warmth to low-income families and to help Washington residents make their homes more energy-efficient,” McKenna said. “These programs are especially needed in today’s economy and will benefit those least able to bear the burden of higher power bills.

“Although our settlement with Enron called for significant consumer restitution, we expected to receive only pennies on the dollar due to the company’s bankruptcy,” McKenna added. “In the end, we were able to recover nearly half of the $22.5 million we were owed under the settlement. That’s more than anyone expected.”

The following Tacoma / Pierce County utilities and programs will receive money from the Enron settlement:

— Parkland Light & Water Co. / $8,239.38

— Town of Steilacoom / $ 6,012.52

— Tacoma Public Utilities, Tacoma Power / $329,675.58

— Town of Ruston / $ 734.86