Power punch

Nov 16, 2012

Wall Street titan JPMorgan Chase & Co. was smacked hard by energy regulators, who said a company unit misled them in a probe of alleged overcharges in the California electricity market. Then, state electricity grid managers halted a pair of planned power-plant upgrades sought by the company. 


From the LAT's Marc Lifsher: "On Wednesday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hit Morgan's electricity-trading unit with one of the most stringent penalties in its arsenal, barring it from selling electricity in California's auction-based market for six months starting in April."


"The ruling, which may deprive Morgan of millions of dollars in profits in California, stemmed from FERC's conclusion that JPMorgan Ventures Energy Corp. had misled the agency in its investigation of alleged overcharges to the California Independent System Operator, which runs much of the state's wholesale power grid."


"Meanwhile, the ISO moved Thursday to stop Morgan from blocking the upgrade of two Huntington Beach power plants considered key to keeping air conditioners humming next summer in Southern California. Morgan could not be reached for comment."


Dan Lungren, a fixture in California politics for decades, is out, losing to a Democratic challenger in his Sacramento-area congressional district. AP called the race on Thursday.


From the Bee's Laurel Rosenhall and Torey Van Oot: "Longtime GOP Rep. Dan Lungren has lost his seat in Congress to Democratic challenger Ami Bera in a close race to represent the eastern Sacramento County suburbs."


"Lungren didn't concede Thursday night, but vote counts showed Bera's lead growing to almost 5,700 votes. Bera was ahead by just 184 votes on Election Day, and the margin has grown steadily as workers count tens of thousands of mail and provisional ballots."


"Bera, in a phone call from Washington where he was attending training for new members of Congress, said "it does look like the voters of Sacramento County have spoken."


The deadline to complete the bullet train between Bakersfield and Madera has been pushed back a few months to the end of 2017.


From Tim Sheehan in the Fresno Bee: "The authority is now saying in bidding documents being considered by contractors that it has pushed back its anticipated completion date for its Madera-Bakersfield section to the end of 2017. The agency has previously said that the completion deadline was September 2017 -- a deadline linked to more than $3 billion from the federal government, including American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funds and transportation money."


"What we've recognized is that the project deadline had been tied to the ARRA deadline unnecessarily," authority CEO Jeffrey Morales said Thursday. "That would result in added acceleration costs."


"Bids from would-be contractors for the first stretch of the train line, between Madera and downtown Fresno, are due by mid-January. The revised bid requests issued this week give the winning contractor 54 months from when a contract is awarded -- expected to be mid-2013 -- to complete the work. Earlier, contractors were given 42 months to finish their job."


Speaking of high-speed rail, the system faces a day in court today over a challenge by farmers and others opposing the project.


From the AP's Juliet Williams: "Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley is expected to decide Friday whether to grant a preliminary injunction that would temporarily halt the ambitious infrastructure project. That would prevent the state's rail authority from buying land along the proposed route and continuing with site surveys, engineering design work and geological testing that began months ago."


"Groups representing Central Valley farmers claim in lawsuits that the state agency overseeing the project, the California High-Speed Rail Authority, failed to conduct the thorough environmental reviews required by California law and comply with public meeting laws. They are asking the judge to halt all work until their claims can be heard at trial.

They argue that the state should not spend millions of dollars working on a "massive and largely unfunded project."


"Meanwhile, the rail authority has already surveyed more than 300 parcels of land along the proposed route since Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation giving his approval in July.


The impact of young voters on the Nov. 6 election has been over-estimated, according to the state's top pollsters.


From the Bee's Jim Sanders: "DiCamillo estimated that the unexpectedly large youth vote raised the Proposition 30 tally by about four percentage points, but the measure won by nearly nine percentage points."


"DiCamillo and Mark Baldassare, head of the Public Policy Institute of California, dissected election results Thursday at a session of the Sacramento Press Club."


"Even more significant than the youth vote was the impact of ethnic-minority voters. They turned out in record numbers and tended to oppose Republican positions, the duo said.

"I think the 2012 election in California may prove to be a turning point in California politics," DiCamillo said of the significance of Latino, Asian American, African American and other minority voters, who cast about four of every 10 ballots statewide."



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