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USA: Some slam Ca. charger deal that ends allegations

A $120 million settlement that allows an energy company to establish and operate a vast network of electric vehicle chargers in order to end a decade of legal battles over price-gouging during California’s energy crisis has come under criticism from competitors and government officials who say the deal allows a huge head start in a burgeoning market in place of a penalty.

The agreement between New Jersey-based NRG Energy, Inc. and the state’s Public Utilities Commission was finalized and made public Friday, and now awaits the approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The advancement of the settlement angered some industry competitors including California-based ECOtality, which had filed a court motion after it was first announced asking for more public review because of what it called “monopoly-like” benefits granted to NRG.

“We are extremely disappointed that our call for transparency and industry input has been disregarded,” Martin Felli, general counsel for ECOtality, said in the statement. “We are convinced that the NRG settlement is a bad deal for California ratepayers.”

Felli said the company was considering all legal and legislative options.

Similarly, state Assemblyman Paul Fong had issued a resolution seeking further review.

“We need to know the truth about this deal and what’s in it for the ratepayers of California, and what message does this send to other potential violators?” Fong said in a statement. “These questions deserve answers. And so do the people of California.”

The deal was widely celebrated by government, business and environmental leaders when Gov. Jerry Brown announced it and issued several executive orders alongside it setting ambitious goals for electrifying the state’s roads.

The dispute that led to it began with the state’s energy crisis that led to soaring rates and rolling blackouts in 2000 and 2001. One of many companies the state accused of artificially raising prices by withholding energy supplies was Dynegy, Inc.

NRG, which co-owned California plants with Dynegy at the time, bought them out and took on their legal responsibilities in 2006.

According to details of the agreement released Friday, which also calls for NRG to pay $20 million in cash, most of the money will go toward installing 200 commercial charging stations to be owned and operated by NRG — 110 of them in the Los Angeles area, 55 in the San Francisco Bay Area, 20 in San Diego County and 15 in the San Joaquin Valley.
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