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CalEnergy gives Edison additional time to respond to lawsuit

February 28, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

The hearing set for today on a lawsuit CalEnergy filed against Southern California Edison was delayed as the sides reached an agreement to allow Edison more time to respond to the lawsuit.

Today's hearing was to allow CalEnergy to present its motion for a summary judgment — a move in which the geothermal company would ask that a judge rather than a jury rule on the merits of the case.

The hearing also was to address CalEnergy's desire that its lawsuit against Edison be expedited because of the financial losses CalEnergy is incurring.

CalEnergy officials are suing Edison for payments owed as part of a contract in which CalEnergy supplies power to Edison.

The lawsuit asks the Imperial County Superior Court to force Edison to pay $45 million, the amount Edison owes to the geothermal company for November and December.

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CalEnergy filed that lawsuit last week and Superior Court Judge Donal Donnelly last week took the first step in expediting the case. He ruled CalEnergy could present its motion for a summary judgment today. Under normal procedures it can take up to three months from the time a lawsuit is filed to the point where a summary judgment motion can be presented.

Based on discussions between CalEnergy and Edison on Tuesday, the hearing that had been set for today will be delayed until April 2. That will allow Edison more time to respond to the lawsuit.

CalEnergy officials said they did not have a problem with the delay.

"We see it as a positive step," said Vince Signorotti, land manager for CalEnergy, which operates 10 geothermal plants in the Imperial Valley, eight of which supply power to Edison. "We still see it as moving forward on an expedited basis."

Signorotti added, "It made sense to cooperate. I think we were able to reach an agreement with Edison because the facts in the case are not in dispute."

Attorneys for Edison declined to speak in detail about the lawsuit this morning.

Senior Edison attorney Russell Swartz did say negotiations are moving forward with CalEnergy on a part of the lawsuit in which CalEnergy is asking the court to allow it to sell its energy elsewhere in the state. Court documents show the sides are involved in negotiations on that issue and have until Monday to reach an agreement.

If the parties do not reach an agreement, there will be a hearing Wednesday to address expediting that portion of the lawsuit.

Signorotti said he had no information on negotiations.

He has said CalEnergy cannot continue operations indefinitely without being paid. However, he said it is difficult to say how long the company can continue without payment.

He said as of Thursday the amount Edison will owe CalEnergy will have reached $75 million.

Signorotti added CalEnergy is having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of its reserves to continue daily operations.

CalEnergy was continuing to supply power to Edison today.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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