SACRAMENTO — California has reached its first settlement with an energy producer it accused of overcharging the state last year, trimming $1.4 billion from a $4.3 billion long-term contract with an Oklahoma energy producer and reaping about $400 million more in refunds.
The state’s deal with Tulsa-based Williams Cos., however, does not immediately translate into lower monthly bills for ratepayers nor ease the state’s budget deficit.
Aides to Attorney General Bill Lockyer, announcing the settlement Monday, declined to discuss negotiations with several other energy companies but said more settlements may be on their way.
Williams admitted no wrongdoing as part of the agreement, which Gov. Gray Davis called “a victory for ratepayers. The new contract provides us more reliable power when we need it at much more favorable terms.”
In May 2001, California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and state legislators sued Williams and four other power generators, alleging they conspired to drive up electricity prices.
Bustamante sued on behalf of California taxpayers to recover the generators’ excess profits on power sales to the state since Jan. 17, 2001, when the state started buying power for three struggling utilities.
The generators were Duke Energy, Dynegy Inc., Mirant Corp., Reliant Resources Inc. and Williams.
The suit charges that the five companies gained control of the state’s power market and used unlawful trading practices to manipulate prices.
Despite the settlement, Williams stock dropped 19 percent Monday, as investors reacted to a federal grand jury subpoenas of its California energy trading records.
The Williams’ refunds include $180 million in contract price reductions, $90 million worth of power plant turbines to be given to the cities of San Francisco and San Diego for energy production and $150 million in cash to be divided among numerous public entities across the state. Some of the money will be used to retrofit schools across California to produce their own solar energy.