Under-fire electricty supplier ordered to keep selling power

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The Independent US

A US judge has temporarily ordered an electricity supplier in California to continue selling power to the state, effectively extending an emergency federal directive. Two other suppliers agreed they would continue sales as well.

A US judge has temporarily ordered an electricity supplier in California to continue selling power to the state, effectively extending an emergency federal directive. Two other suppliers agreed they would continue sales as well.

US District Judge Frank Damrell, citing the possibility of "obvious irreparable harm to the public," said Tuesday his temporary order requires Reliant Energy Services Inc to continue sales at least until a further hearing on Wednesday.

Wholesalers AES Pacific Inc and Dynegy Power Corp, not covered under the temporary injunction, said they would continue sales until that hearing as well.

The suppliers provide enough electricity to serve four million homes. Electricity grid officials said losing that source could have produced rolling blackouts like the ones that hit the state twice last month.

The Independent System Operator, which maintains the state's power grid, sought the restraining order on an emergency basis as the federal directive neared its midnight Tuesday expiration.

President George W Bush had said his administration would not renew the orders, which were first issued by the Clinton administration and were extended by Spencer Abraham, Bush's energy secretary.

Reliant filed a lawsuit against the system operator last week after receiving a letter it sent to 140 power generators asking them to agree to continue selling power after the expiration. The Houston-based company said it should not have to bear the cost of California's energy crisis.

Reliant representatives did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday.

Gov Gray Davis' administration is spending $40 million to $50 million a day to buy power for energy-strapped parts of the state while lawmakers try to reach a long-term solution to the crisis.

The state is buying power for the utilities because energy producers have refused to sell to them directly, fearing they won't be paid.

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