A recent story by Jason Leopold on Truthout.org reports that Vice President Dick Cheney was aware of price manipulation and artificial powerplant shutdowns during the 2000-2001 California energy crisis, but kept the information from the public. According to the story, just before Cheney's National Energy Policy was to be announced, the Vice President ordered the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to seal documents related to settlements with two energy companies that had been investigated for wrongdoing. Leopold writes:
So in May 2001, just days before Cheney unveiled his long-awaited National Energy Policy, FERC entered into confidential settlements with Williams in which the company forfeited $8 million it was owed by California's grid operator for power Williams sold into the marketplace at inflated prices. Williams did not admit any guilt for the power plant shutdown and, on orders from Cheney, FERC agreed to keep details of the settlement sealed. FERC later entered into a similar settlement with Reliant. The company agreed to forfeit $13.8 million it was owed by California's grid operator, did not admit to any wrongdoing, and FERC kept the details of the settlement confidential.
Williams and Reliant never admited guilt. But do you remember the audio tapes with Enron employees laughing about all the money they had stolen from poor "Grandma Millie" in California? That's who these guys are. They don't have to admit their guilt because there are tapes and transcripts that have recorded it for us. One Reliant employee is quoted in the report as having said, "we decided as a group that we were going to make [the money we lost] back up, so we turned like about almost every power plant off. It worked." A Williams employee is quoted as having told a powerplant operator that it wouldn't hurt the companies' feelings, "if the power plant that was down for repairs was kept offline for an extended period of time so the company could continue to be paid the 'premium' for its emergency energy supplies from the ISO."
Dick Cheney's decision to keep such blatant wrong-doing from the public is part noble, and part sickening. Cheney was protecting a friend. After all, the man who had hand-picked Dick to succed him as the top man at Halliburton sat on Williams' board of directors. And that man, Thomas Cruikshank, had told Cheney that FERC, "was in possession of incriminating audio tapes in which a Williams official and an AES power plant operator discussed keeping a Southern California power plant offline so Williams could continue to receive the $750 per megawatt hour premium for emergency power...".
Instead of having knowledge about the potential risks of a deregulated energy market, the public was kept in the dark. The Vice President's National Energy Policy, which in reality consisted of little more than a "wishlist" from the energy industry, became law and the rest is history. The $30 billion swindle kind of history, and that's just California. In order to help some pals, Dick sold out the country, or rather, "sold off" the country.