(House of Representatives - July 10, 2001)

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[Pages H3829-H3830]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the 
gentleman from California (Mr. Filner) is recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, the electricity crisis continues 1 year 
later in San Diego, in California and the West. Scores of businesses in 
my hometown of San Diego have gone out of business. People on fixed 
incomes are suffering because they have to make choices between buying 
food and prescription drugs and air conditioning. This should not be 
happening in America.
  Now, we have called for price controls, we have called for a refund 
of the overcharges, and people from my State on the other side of the 
aisle have said, Let the free market work. Price controls don't work. I 
say to my colleagues, there is no free market. The system is completely 
out of whack. There is an energy cartel which dominates our lives in 
  I want to give you a specific example, Mr. Speaker, of how the market 
in California is being manipulated by this energy cartel and what we in 
San Diego hope to do about it.
  There is a 700 megawatt power plant in my district. We call it the 
South Bay Power Plant. It is operated by the Duke Energy Corporation. 
It looks like in the last year, Mr. Speaker, Duke Energy has made close 
to $800 million off

[[Page H3830]]

that plant while 65 percent of the businesses in our area face 
bankruptcy. They paid for the operation of that plant in 3 months for 
what they thought would take 5 years or more to pay off.
  Now recently, five former employees of Duke Energy, five former 
employees of the South Bay Energy Plant, testified under oath, 
testified with 100 years of experience in that plant, Mr. Speaker, and 
what they said should be taken very seriously by anybody studying this 
crisis. They said that the generators were turned up and down not 
because of the need of the people of San Diego or of California but 
because of the price at a given moment that the market was bringing. In 
fact, a 250 megawatt generator was turned off at a time when we had 
blackouts in San Diego, at a time when people were sent home from their 
jobs and not getting paychecks, at a time when there were near-
fatalities at a traffic intersection because the lights were off, at a 
time when elevators had people stuck in them. Yet the biggest generator 
in our county was turned off.
  These employees further said that they were told to throw away spare 
parts so maintenance would take a lot longer, supply could be withheld 
and the prices increased. They talked about how the trading floor where 
the prices were set for electricity was in direct contact with the 
generating floor; and so the generators were ramped up and down, as I 
said, not by the need of California or of San Diego, but by the price 
that could be gotten. So Duke Energy has stolen $800 million from the 
citizens of San Diego and of California. They have charged up to $4,000 
a megawatt hour for something that cost $30 only a year ago. That, Mr. 
Speaker, is not the free enterprise system at work; that is stealing 
from people who could not afford the cost.
  Now, to add insult to injury, Mr. Speaker, that theft took place from 
a power plant which the citizens of San Diego own. Yes, Mr. Speaker, we 
own that plant through the San Diego Unified Port District, a public 
agency; and that public agency, at very, very good terms for the 
lessee, leased the plant to this Duke Energy Corporation to operate, as 
the lease says, in the public interest. Well, that lease has not been 
operated in the public interest. That lease has allowed Duke Energy 
Corporation to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from the people of 
San Diego.
  Mr. Speaker, since the public owns the South Bay Power Plant, I call 
upon the San Diego Unified Port District to take back that plant and to 
operate the lease in the public interest.