I.V. geothermal companies file suit against SoCal Edison

April 11, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

Two more Imperial Valley geothermal companies have filed a lawsuit against Southern California Edison, both stating they want to suspend contracts with the utility and sell their power on the open market.

The geothermals, Heber Geothermal Co. and Second Imperial Geothermal Co., operate in the Heber area. The parent company for both is Covanta Energy of Fairfield, N.J.

Danielle Tinman, a spokeswoman for Covanta, said the lawsuit was filed in Imperial County Superior Court and asks the court to temporarily free the geothermals from their contracts with Edison until the utility pays more than $35 million in back payments.

Tinman said Heber Geothermal, on Pitzer Road, produces 52 megawatts of power. That company is owed $19.3 million by Edison.

SIGC operates on Dogwood Road and produces 40 megawatts. Edison owes it $16.3 million.

Tinman said the geothermals "waited as long as they could," and were hoping the state would step in with legislation to help renewable energy suppliers that have not received payment from the state's two largest power utilities, Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric.


She said that legislative help has not come, and SIGC and Heber Geothermal need to receive back payments or have the contracts suspended.

"We simply want to be paid what we're owed," Tinman said.

The lawsuit by the two geothermals comes in the wake of a court battle between the Imperial Valley's largest geothermal company, CalEnergy, and Edison.

In March, Imperial County Superior Court Judge Donal Donnelly ruled CalEnergy temporarily could sell its power on the open market instead of to Edison.

On Monday, Donnelly could rule on whether Edison must pay up to $140 million in back payments to CalEnergy.

The lawsuit by Heber Geothermal and SGIC comes as Edison has said it will start to pay renewable energy providers this month on a "going-forward" basis.

Tinman said she is aware of Edison's plan to pay on the going-forward basis and said the two geothermals will accept the payments. However, she said until Edison pays the $35 million in back payments, the company will seek to sell power on the open market.

Edison is pursuing court action to have all such cases filed against it by renewable energy providers throughout the state heard in one court. That action could result in a delay in such lawsuits until that issue is addressed.

Tinman said the two geothermals will seek to have their lawsuit against Edison expedited.

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

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