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State power traders to be pulled from control room
LOS ANGELES (AP) The agency that buys and sells electricity on behalf of the California government will pull traders from a power grid control room. Six buyers from the state Department of Water Resources will be removed from the Folsom control room of the California Independent System Operator by Sept. 1, said Pete Garris, who oversees state power purchases.
The water department is the largest buyer of electricity in the West.
Cal-ISO, which runs California's power transmission system, is supposed to be independent of any party involved in the state's electricity market.
But there is an increasing chorus of concern about its impartiality, especially since Gov. Gray Davis was allowed to appoint the agency's board members under emergency measures approved amid blackouts earlier this year.
Davis appointees also head the water department, which has been buying billions of dollars worth of electricity for debt-ridden private utilities during the power crunch. The state spent more than $909 million on power in July alone.
The Cal-ISO control room holds secret bid information and other sensitive market data. State officials have said the access is crucial to ensuring a decent power supply. But power industry executives and lawmakers say the setup has given the state an unfair advantage over private firms.
Rep. Doug Ose, a Sacramento Republican, is chairing a committee to probe the power crisis. During a hearing earlier this month, he said the cozy relationship between the grid and the state power buying agency allowed the Department of Water Resources to "cherry pick" power bids.
State officials dispute that characterization, but admit there is a potential for leaked information.
"I don't want to characterize it as nonexistent," Garris told the Los Angeles Times for a story published Saturday. "But I don't want to characterize it as substantial."
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), August 20, 2001