Cantwell Asks Bush to Use His "Authority" to Protect Washington State Consumers From Enron's Greed

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) sent a letter today to President Bush asking that he do everything possible to provide relief to Washington state consumers who have been gouged by Enron while the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) failed to protect them from Enron's market manipulation.

Cantwell, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, wants Bush to "use [his] authority to protect Western ratepayers." In recent weeks she has called on FERC to stop ignoring incriminating evidence – including audiotapes – she released with the Snohomish Public Utility District.

Cantwell's letter to Bush follows below:

June 16, 2004 The Honorable George W. Bush The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Bush,

I write regarding my grave concern for the manner in which the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has handled the ongoing investigation of Enron and its affiliates' efforts to manipulate markets and gouge consumers during the western electricity crisis of 2000-2001. The Commission, appointed by the Administration, is charged under the Federal Power Act with ensuring that wholesale electricity rates in this nation are "just and reasonable." Unfortunately, a review of FERC statements regarding recently released Enron audiotapes, along with a closer inspection of the procedural record, points toward a pattern of either ineptitude or obstruction—or both—in the Commission's handling of this matter.

As you will see during your visit this week to Washington state, these issues are of tremendous importance to the Pacific Northwest where consumers have borne a disproportionate share of the cost arising from the western electricity crisis. Utility rates have risen by as much as 60 percent in some areas, leaving far too many of my constituents to choose between food, medicine and keeping their lights and heat turned on. The ratepayers and economy of Washington--and the West in general--continue to suffer.

While this month will mark the three-year anniversary of FERC's long-overdue decision to put in place price caps to reign in skyrocketing prices resulting from the schemes of Enron and others—price caps that your Administration opposed—ratepayers throughout the West have yet to see relief from the many ongoing FERC proceedings that is in any way proportional to the damage that was caused. Further, Enron is now actually suing a number of utilities in my region, arguing that it should be allowed to collect even more profits on contracts resulting from the company's market manipulation schemes—while FERC has sat idly by.

It will be next to impossible for the ratepayers of the West to get the justice they deserve if FERC continues to either ignore or suppress evidence demonstrating Enron's intent to manipulate markets and gouge consumers. As such, I respectfully request that you do everything within your power to ensure the federal government's investigation of Enron is thorough and fair. Further, I encourage you to use the full extent of your authority to ensure that the Commission does its job and follows the law in providing Western consumers relief from the unjust and unreasonable rates resulting from Enron's manipulation schemes.

Mr. President, the FERC Chairman serves at your pleasure and you appoint the Commission's members. Please use your authority to help protect western ratepayers. Thank you for your attention to this matter, which is of such great importance to my constituents.


Maria Cantwell U.S. Senator