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California Consumers Could Get $1.6 Billion From Energy Traders

— Consumers could see energy credits in their utility bills if the administrative law judge's tentative ruling granting consumers $1.6 billion is upheld. California regulators call it another victory as they try to recoup money taken from the state from energy traders.

Power Transmission Lines
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Above: Power Transmission Lines

Energy companies illegally drove up prices during a time when electricity shortages led to rolling blackouts.

"A billion dollars is a lot of money and we're very proud of our victory," said Frank Lindh, an attorney for The California Public Utilities Commission. "But the fact is, when it rolls through to over 20 million Californians, its just a few dollars for each person. It shows up in your electricity bill as an offset."

California has already returned about $3 billion to consumers, and there are two more legal actions that could recover up to $2 billion dollars more from traders.

The state will never be able to recover the billions Enron overcharged California customers because that company went out of business before the money could be collected.

"California set itself up for market manipulation by deregulating the electricity market," said Mindy Spatt, of the Utility Reform Network.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will review the decision. The electricity wholesalers are widely expected to sue if the decision is upheld.

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