Eating Enron debt

ENRON creditors should not be repaid with further exploitation of Enron's victims. They could if Congressman Joe Barton succeeds in blocking a reasonable energy-bill provision permitting federal energy regulators to protect victim utilities from organized hoodwinking by the likes of Enron.

At least one of the Texas Republican's political contributors, an Enron creditor, would not get as much money back. Barton is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee, and the House and Senate are attempting to reconcile the differences in their energy bills. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., won bipartisan support for adding the amendment to the Senate's version. If it sticks, the provision could help Snohomish County Public Utility District and utilities in Nevada and California, which are trying to excise themselves from Enron contracts.

It's important to note: Snohomish didn't take the power. The PUD is on the hook for a "termination" fee of $122 million because it canceled its Enron contract when the company's illegal market manipulation became apparent. In March, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission told its administrative law judge to consider such fees "unjust profits."

But in this case, the bankruptcy court has jurisdiction.

Creditors, such as Reliant Energy Services of Houston, are feeding on Enron's corporate carcass. They and Enron's lobbyists want Snohomish and other utilities that canceled contracts to pay termination fees.

If Barton succeeds, he would look a bit like a cop who permits a mugger to finish his crime spree because the bad guy owes his cronies money.

Enron's creditors no doubt are due substantial money, but the payments should not be made on the backs of Enron's victims.