Calif. Utility Giant Files for Bankruptcy

Southern California Edison, the state's second-largest utility, was not affected by the filing. Officials at parent Edison International were meeting Friday to discuss the situation. Edison International's stock was down $3.63, or 29 percent, to $9.01 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock of Sempra Energy, the parent company of San Diego Gas & Electric that serves 3 million customers in the San Diego area, was down $2.17, or 9 percent, to $21.98 per share. The three utilities say they have lost more than $14 billion since June because of soaring wholesale costs. SoCal Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric are barred under the state's deregulation law from raising rates to recover the costs and are having trouble buying power and natural gas because of poor credit.

Davis Backs Rate Increases

In his five-minute televised speech Thursday evening, Davis said rate increases are needed to help pay for power purchased by the state on behalf of the utilities. The purchases have cost taxpayers $4.7 billion since January. Davis said his tiered rate plan would mean no increase for most residents and an average increase of 26.5 percent for the rest. The Public Utilities Commission has already approved rate increases of up to 46 percent for customers of SoCal Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric. The power crisis led to rolling blackouts in January and earlier this month as electricity supplies dwindled to nearly nothing. On Thursday, state power grid managers said California will see more than a month of rolling blackouts for as many as 5 million people at a time if residents use as much power this summer as last summer. The crisis is blamed a number of factors, including high demand, high wholesale costs and a tight supply worsened by scarce hydroelectric power in the Northwest and maintenance of aging California power plants. The governor has signed contracts and agreements in principle to secure the state's long-term power needs, committing $53 billion that eventually must be paid back by taxpayers and utility customers.

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