AUSTIN, TX: Enron's apparently futile attempts to keep its name out of the papers have given the story of a state regulatory inquiry legs it likely wouldn't have had otherwise.The Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) is investigating whether six companies intentionally overscheduled transmissions across the state's power grid last summer, and whether they profited from the inaccurate forecasts. Some of the targeted companies used a post-deregulation confidentiality agreement between the Electric Reliability Counsel of Texas and the PUC to argue their names should be withheld from the press. But eventually, American Electric Power, Constellation Power Source, Mirant, Reliant, and TXU publicly identified themselves, leaving only one holdout for privacy.
"We didn't have anything to hide,
said Reliant's corporate communications director Sandy Fruhman, echoing sentiments expressed by TXU and other companies. "Anything like this that might create the perception that we're not dealing straight with consumers or that consumers need to be worried about competition is not what we want to see."
In response to reporters' public information requests, the Texas Attorney General's Office ultimately will rule on whether the sixth company's name should be made public. Recently, however, the PUC released documents in which the company's name was blacked out, but its address - clearly that of Enron's - was not. No one from the "sixth company
took advantage of an opportunity to peruse the papers before their release, said PUC public information director Terry Hadley.
"The only comment that we've made is that we are cooperating with the PUC's investigation,
Enron spokesman Eric Thode said, without explicitly admitting that his company was among the PUC's targets.
"This has lived on well beyond its natural shelf life,
opined State Rep. Steven Wolens (D-Dallas), who cochairs an electric-competition oversight committee. The "PR nightmare,
he said, "is like any other story in politics: The longer you hide it, the worse it gets."