RICHLAND -- It's payback time for Enron's price gouging as millions of dollars from a settlement are being used to help homeowners and businesses, in part through a Battelle program in Richland.
More than $9 million has been sent to programs that benefit Washington utility customers who were gouged by the manufactured energy crisis of 2000 to 2001, Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna announced Tuesday.
Because of Enron's bankruptcy, not all of the $22.5 million owed to Washington was collected, but the $9 million was more than expected, he said.
Almost $6 million will be sent to the state's utilities. Rather than give small refunds to individual customers, the money will be used to reduce heating expenses for low-income households and support weatherization programs that improve heating efficiency.
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A payment to the Benton Public Utility District of $86,941 is pending.
The Franklin County PUD is being sent $44,831, Richland $45,650 and the Benton Rural Electric Association $24,067.
Elsewhere in the Mid-Columbia, Grant County PUD will receive $77,940 and Columbia Rural Electric $5,988.
In addition, a blue ribbon committee picked Battelle to receive $1.6 million to help businesses and schools improve energy efficiency. Battelle operates Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland for the Department of Energy.
Battelle will use some of the money to develop new and improve existing methods to make commercial buildings more energy efficient.
It plans to help school districts, colleges and universities better manage energy use by training building operators and managers. It also will join with community colleges to develop and enhance their programs and vocational instruction on heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and building controls.
The work will be done by Battelle staff in Richland over three years.
The rest of the $9 million -- about $1.2 million -- will be used by the Washington State University Extension Energy Program to conduct energy audits and teach businesses how to be more energy efficient.
Including the Enron settlement, the Attorney General's Office has distributed nearly $45 million from settlements with utility companies.
Enron reportedly made nearly $2 billion in profits from its electricity trading operations in the Western states during 2000 and 2001.
"How fitting that Enron will pay to provide warmth to low-income families and to help Washington residents make their homes more energy efficient," McKenna said in a statement.
-- Annette Cary: 509-582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org