FERC calls for oral argument before ruling

Thursday, October 31, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Federal energy regulators said Wednesday they want to hear from both sides before deciding whether El Paso Corp. withheld natural gas from California and contributed to rising power prices during the state's energy crisis.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission agreed to a request from El Paso to hold oral arguments on a federal administrative judge's initial ruling in September that the Houston-based company "withheld extremely large amounts" of natural gas during the state's energy crisis in 2000 and 2001.

The judge recommended FERC impose penalties on the company.

The arguments, which FERC rarely agrees to hear, will take place Dec. 2, a FERC spokesman said.

El Paso has challenged the judge's ruling, saying its pipeline carried as much gas as could safely be shipped to California.

The California Public Utilities Commission and utilities that use natural gas to fuel their power plants complained to FERC in the spring of 2000 about a contract between two El Paso subsidiaries, a pipeline company and a natural gas marketer, to ship gas to California.

El Paso Corp.: http://www.elpaso.com

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission: http://www.ferc.fed.us

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