CalEnergy unable to pay county property taxes

March 14, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

CalEnergy officials announced this morning the geothermal company will be unable to pay some $3.8 million in property taxes to Imperial County in April.

That announcement came as CalEnergy is continuing to be hurt because it has not received payment from Southern California Edison for power the geothermal company provided.

Edison has failed to pay more than $75 million to CalEnergy and CalEnergy officials say they are running out of money to operate 10 geothermal plants in the Imperial Valley.

The company has filed a lawsuit against Edison asking that the court force it to pay $45 million owed to CalEnergy, which is what Edison owes for November and December.


CalEnergy's lawsuit also asks the court to allow it to sell its power to other agencies in the state so it again can start generating revenue.

A court hearing is set for later this month in which an Imperial County judge will address the issue of whether CalEnergy will be allowed to break from its contract with Edison and sell its power elsewhere.

CalEnergy officials say they are facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in daily operations costs and are having to tap into their reserves and are running out of money.

"It is with deep regret that CalEnergy today is notifying Imperial County officials that our company will be unable to pay $3.8 million in property taxes due April 10," stated Vince Signorotti, land manager for CalEnergy.

He further stated. "We are well aware of the impact of this step on the community, especially our schools, since our property taxes represent 72 percent of the property taxes collected by the Calipatria school district."

Calipatria Unified School District officials said the loss of the property tax will not affect the district in the short term.

District Business Manager Lori Wigg said if CalEnergy is unable to make its property tax payment, the state would provide the funds to make up for any loss.

County Supervisor Wally Leimgruber said in the short term the county can use reserves to protect services. However, he said if payments are not forthcoming county services could be cut.

"We have expenses we are obligated to make," Leimgruber said.

Leimgruber said he is concerned because CalEnergy is not the only geothermal energy company in the Imperial Valley. Two other companies, one in Heber and one in the East Mesa, have been hurt by the energy crisis.

He said there is a concern those companies will be unable to meet their property tax bills.

A press release provided by CalEnergy states companies that provide renewable energy, such as geothermal companies, have been hurt by a lack of payment from both Edison and PG&E, both investor-owned utilities.

Five renewable energy providers in nine counties throughout the state are expected to miss their property tax payments due in April, according to a press release from CalEnergy.

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

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