California agenicies seek more than $1 billion in PG&E bankruptcy case

By Don Thompson Associated Press Writer
Thursday October 04, 2001

SACRAMENTO — State agencies filed more than $1 billion in claims against Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in federal bankruptcy court Wednesday, the deadline for seeking such payments. 

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer also reiterated his request that the federal Securities and Exchange Commission review the transfer of billions of dollars by PG&E to its parent company, PG&E Corp. 

The California Department of Water Resources submitted a claim for $258.7 million on top of the $179.4 million it sought in an initial filing last week for energy purchases it made on behalf of the company’s customers since PG&E filed for bankruptcy April 6. 

Additional claims were filed by a dozen agencies, including the departments of Fish and Game, Toxic Substances Control, various regional water quality control boards, Board of Equalization and Franchise Tax Board. Those claims are for such things as unpaid taxes and environmental cleanup costs, said Lockyer, who submitted the $1.1 billion worth of claims on the state’s behalf. 

PG&E “is committed to fulfill all of its valid claims, including all legitimate tax and other governmental obligations,” the company said in a statement. 

Lockyer had earlier advised state agencies to avoid filing claims in the bankruptcy court because it could jeopardize the state’s sovereign immunity, the state’s right not to be sued in federal court. But the state risked not being included in the bankruptcy settlement if it missed Wednesday’s court-ordered deadline for submitting claims. 

In his supplemental petition to the SEC, Lockyer accused PG&E Corp. of transferring the money from its subsidiary as part of an “asset grab under cover of the bankruptcy reorganization.” 

He contended the corporation is attempting to avoid scrutiny by the California Public Utilities Commission and the SEC, but argued the SEC has an obligation to review the transfer “with the interests of the utility customers in full focus.” 

That accusation is “completely false,” PG&E said in its statement. The company said it anticipates an SEC review lasting several months, and said Lockyer is misinterpreting federal law.