"'We're making exactly the same mistakes we did with Enron, just with a different commodity,' Robert McCullough, an energy consultant, said by telephone from Portland, Oregon. 'The same manipulation we saw in electricity and gas pricing is what we're seeing in oil.'"
"'This is a very Oregon moment,' researcher Robert McCullough of the energy consulting firm McCullough Research said. 'The Pacific Northwest is a very honest area, and so we have little in the way of checks and balances. But luckily, we also have very few villains.'"
"McCullough, an economist who serves on the committee that oversees Reed College's small nuclear research reactor in Portland, thought it seemed reasonable when approaced by environmentalists to see if shutting down the Energy Northwest reactor early could produce significant savings."
"The Washington and Oregon chapters of Physicians for Social Responsibility have hired Robert McCullough of McCullough Research to examine the business case for an early retirement of the Columbia Generating Station nuclear power plant"
The market price of regional electricity in the Pacific Northwest has now fallen below the price of operating the plant. Additional article here.
A Northwest physicians group is paying for a full exam of the Columbia Generating Station nuclear power plant. Additional article here.
"'Potentially market-making information, misleading reports of shutdowns could create or exacerbate a perceived supply shortage and artificially drive market prices to unjustifiably high levels,' the letter to Holder says."
"The senators cited a report from independent energy consultant Robert McCullough that said two West Coast refineries continued to operate throughout May despite reports they were shut for maintenance."
"McCullough, whose contention inspired Tuesday's call by the six senators for a federal investigation, says tighter regulatory oversight of the refinery industry is essential. 'No specific agency has regulatory authority over oil and gasoline markets,' he says. 'No specific agency accumulates data on West Coast markets in sufficient detail to provide a check on the exercise of market power.'"
"West Coast motorists were led to believe that the price spikes were tied to outages and production problems, but McCullough showed that inventories were building at a time when there were news reports, which refiners didn’t dispute at the time, of possible supply shortages. "
"The McCullough report found that such manipulation could be easy to coordinate between companies. 'In highly concentrated industries, the exercise of market power through production reductions or cooperative pricing can require no more than an email or a phone call.'"
"There have been no holes poked in it yet. We have not had a single substantive response. There's this question of 'does a refinery have smoke even if its operating partially?'. We didn't go on the total. We actually went through a device by device analysis. We identified the specific devices that were down and then compared these with the emissions from these devices. Three of the refineries showed a discrepancy in the Bay Area."
"McCullough argued that the state needs refineries to report their planned and unplanned repairs, with that information made readily available to the public. 'Markets work best in the light,' McCullough said. 'For our most critical commodity, we need to make this as open as possible."
"'It certainly does not prove collusion among the principal suppliers, since specific data by refineries is difficult to procure,' McCullough’s report said. 'However, the data does suggest the need for an investigation on a refinery-by-refinery level.'"
California gas price spikes not tied to refinery outages. Additional article here.
New research shows that refiners continued to produce gasoline in periods when the public was told the contrary. Additional article here.
"This means that in California, the nation's most populous state, seven major players control most of the supply. They are vertically integrated, refining oil into gasoline and getting involved in the retailing of gasoline in the wholesale market. That system, McCullough said in an interview, lends itself to a market concentration that allows producers to subtly coordinate their prices."
"'They're basically a license to steal,' said Robert McCullough, a Portland, Oregon based energy analyst who follows deregulation issues. 'They essentially give advanced permission for market behavior that under any other conditions would be outrageous.'"
"'There's nothing really new under the sun,' says Robert McCullough, a Portland, Ore., energy expert who reviewed the ISO complaint at my request. 'But it's a cost you're paying in your monthly bill.'"
"Consumers and businesses have all been severely impacted by the high gas prices. It might not be surprising that the reason could be pure greed, but it sure makes the blood boil. Oregon's economic recovery is slow going and this adds insult to injury."
"McCullough's new report 'Analysis of West Coast Gasoline Prices' released June 5 says oil refineries may have intentionally created a supply shortage this spring just to charge Northwest drivers inflated prices, and they reportedly made almost $50 million a day because of it."
"Robert McCullough, the Portland analyst who helped topple Enron over predatory electricity trading a decade ago, has issued a report arguing that gasoline prices should have never reached this spring's dizzying, budget-draining heights."
"'When that happens in the real world, we’d be pretty suspicious,' McCullough says. 'A local hardware store has a fire and the other hardware stores close and you have to pay $100 to buy a hammer, you’d be calling the local district attorney to look into it.'"
"We do not have the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the beat. There is no cop on this beat. We have to rely on our elected officials to ask the Federal Trade Commission to start requesting those materials"
"The McCullough Research report, published Tuesday, questioned whether the historically low gasoline inventories on the West Coast were really a result of a fire Feb. 17 that idled the BP plant for about three months."
Senator questions why refineries cut production. Additional article here.
Senator seeks probe into high West Coast gas prices. Additional article here.
"'Texas is the only state in the U.S. that has this curious system,' said Robert McCullough, of McCullough Research in Portland, Oregon. 'Not only are we creating an incentive not to build new plants, we’re creating an incentive that might lead some traders to create artificial shortages. Now, that sounds like a conspiracy theory and it is a bit, but it’s not as if it’s a conspiracy theory that we haven’t seen before.'"
"Analyst Robert McCulloch argues that the DOE decision is a serious setback for Cape Wind. 'I'm glad I'm not on their side of the table with Wall Street. They still have to finance this and it is not what you would call an easy sell.'"
"Robert McCullough's testimony revealed a complicated 'derivative' scheme based on the price of various commodities over time. Customers are not paying for service, or a natural gas substitute, but instead are paying for a financial hedge to cover the losses and share in the profits, if any, that the plant's owners might make. McCullough's testimony shows that if the contract were in place today, it could lead to a loss to ratepayers of as much as $500 million."
"A report prepared for AARP in 2009 notes that the Australian market requires disclosure of power plant failures and other related information after two days. Robert McCullough, who heads an Oregon-based research firm that prepared the report, said that, in addition, 'Texas does not make very detailed trading data available on the web as all other U.S. states do.'"
"Transparency in ERCOT: A No-cost Strategy to Reduce Electricity Prices in Texas," the May 5, 2009 report by McCullough Research, can be found here.
"Robert McCullough, an Oregon energy analyst, expressed doubt whether the nation, or Massachusetts, can create many jobs by investing public money in clean-energy companies. 'It's not a question of vision, but it's a question of implementation,' said McCullough, saying government has a bad track record of 'backing failures.'"
"I guess it's hard to blame the generation companies. Why should they build new capacity when it would mess up the present system in which they get paid for merely existing? But it demonstrates a highly flawed wholesale system -- I won't call it a wholesale market because, as Robert McCullough keeps pointing out to me, real markets don't require 400 PJM bureaucrats to set the rules."
"'It's very expensive news for New Englanders,' Robert McCullough, an energy analyst in Oregon, said of the announcement last week that the federal government is looking to lease deep-ocean waters for up to 4,000 megawatts of additional offshore wind development."
"The state Department of Public Utilities gave permission yesterday for National Grid to purchase half of Cape Wind's power, removing the last significant hurdle for construction to begin on the controversial wind farm in Nantucket Sound next year. The agency, however, refused to approve a second agreement for the sale of the project's remaining power. ...'Every time they get one of these halfway results, it reduces their ability to finance,' said Robert McCullough, an Oregon-based energy consultant who is not involved in the Cape Wind project but worked for opponents of a proposed wind farm off Block Island."
"A few years ago, grid administrators outside Philadelphia changed the rules for selling wholesale electricity in such a way that Maryland consumers will end up paying an extra $5 billion or so for their kilowatts from 2007 to 2014. ...The money was supposed to lure those companies and others to build generation plants, thus easing electricity shortages. But the generators haven't been built. ...'It is a joke,' says Robert McCullough, an economist and energy consultant hired by the Illinois attorney general to analyze similar electricity charges in that state. 'We can say without any question that it is completely outlandish.'"
"[A] review of National Grid's own estimates of the above-market prices it would pay for Cape Wind power shows that local businesses, nonprofits and other large energy users will be paying far more [than the estimated $1.25 a month increase for residential customers] - in some cases as much tens of thousands of dollars per year. And experts say most of those costs will be passed on to the same consumers who, as rate- and taxpayers, will be paying for the cost of planting the turbines off Nantucket Sound - and footing higher energy bills once the project is running. 'As they say, there are lies, damned lies and statistics,' said energy analyst Robert McCullough. 'This is a very expensive project.'"
"Tuesday's final witness [at the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission hearing], energy expert Robert McCullough, testified on behalf of seven citizens of Block Island and North Kingstown, including Republican state Rep. Lawrence Ehrhardt, who oppose the project. McCullough said the power purchase agreement was not commercially reasonable because it estimates costs without stating what equipment would be used on the project. 'We don't know where the prices are coming from,' he stated, 'We don't even know what the equipment is.'"
"[In written testimony, Robert] McCullough said he found the prices in the [proposed contract governing how National Grid would buy electricity from a wind farm developed by Deepwater Wind off Block Island] are significantly higher than prices for similar projects either under way or recently completed in Europe. 'The cost figures give the appearance of being reverse-engineered from a required rate of return rather than derived from basic engineering estimates. The rate of return seems high with any reasonable level of leverage, and due diligence by the purchaser was lacking. Finally, the proposed contract's pricing sections are poorly written and several other sections may contain drafting errors.'"
"As state leaders give their support for the Deepwater contract agreement with National
Grid, small business and concerned citizens voice their opposition. 'The cost figure give the appearance of being reverse-engineered from a required rate of return rather than derived from basic engineering estimates,' stated Robert McCullough an energy consultant from Oregon working on the Block Island wind farm project. McCullough commented that the agreement between Deepwater and National Grid is written poorly, contains numerous errors, and lacks key information regarding maintenance costs and the type of turbines that will be constructed."
Richard Brodsky, candidate for Attorney General for the state of New York, cited a McCullough Research report that analyzed the bidding at the New York Independent System Operator and found that "every day at least one producer submits maximum $1,000 bids, while production costs even with expensive fuels like natural gas are significantly less than $100 an hour."
"The New York Independent System Operator's Market-Clearing Price Auction is Too Expensive for New York," the March 3, 2009 report by McCullough Research, can be found here.
July 13, 2010 Keep Energy In Line The Hartford Advocate, Robert McCullough's Letter to the Editor
"Connecticut suffers and Dominion profits from the distorted prices set by the bureaucrats who run the New England Independent System Operator's wholesale electricity markets. These markets need a thorough [overhaul] - starting with making
the bids, bidders, and calculations public - so that effective competition can bring Connecticut's wholesale power costs in line with those elsewhere in the United States."
Although the Millstone nuclear power plant in Waterford near New London produces about 55 percent of the electrical power generated in the state, there is little incentive for Connecticut legislators to encourage new nuclear plants. According to Rep. Vicki Nardello, (D-Prospect), "under the rules of the state's deregulated market Millstone can charge the same for its power as a power plant fueled by natural gas, the most expensive source of power." An analysis by McCullough Research has shown that Dominion Resources, the Virginia-based company that owns Millstone, "made $440 million in 2009 before taxes, yielding a 57-percent rate of return on investment and a return on equity of 115 percent."
"Developers in Cape Wind could make massive gains by selling off their rights to the wind farm proposed. ...It is said to be a common practice amongst energy companies to arrange for all necessary permits and new power plant financing before turning it over to other investors even as the projects are ready to go. Robert McCullough who is an energy expert at the McCullough Research center in Oregon, feels this is how entrepreneurs work and there is nothing unethical about a rapid turnover in the energy business."
"Cape Wind developers could make big bucks if they sold off the rights to the proposed
offshore wind farm, as they did last year when they unloaded a new wood-burning power plant in Texas before construction even began. ...A spokesman for the controversial Cape Wind project off the coast of Cape Cod says the developers have every intention of seeing the project through to the end ...[b]ut experts say its common practice for energy companies to line up the necessary permits and financing for new power plants and then turn around and sell ready-to-go projects to other investors. "Rapid turnover is the name of the game in the energy business," said Robert McCullough, an energy expert at McCullough Research in Oregon. "It's often the smart play. There's nothing unethical about it. It's how entrepreneurs work."
"Tucked in National Grid's 159-page rate filing is an appendix calling for Cape Wind's proposed first-year rate to rise from 20.7 cents per kilowatt hour to 22.8 cents - or by 10 percent - if the developer can't secure a lucrative, investment tax credit. Robert McCullough, an Oregon energy consultant, said the back-up rate hikes are 'not outlandish' - and they're perhaps necessary if Cape Wind is ever to get built."
"The controversial Cape Wind project could end up costing ratepayers as much as $6 billion over 15 year - and provide utilities with multimillion-dollar bonus incentives if they buy electricity from the planned off-shore wind farm...'By any standard, this is a very high price for energy,' said Robert McCullough, president of McCullough Research, an Oregon energy consulting firm."
"Cape Wind, which wants to build 130 wind turbines off the coast of Cape Cod, and National Grid announced yesterday that they’ve reached an agreement to start charging customers 20.7 cents per kilowatt hour in 2013 - more than double the current rate of electricity from conventional power plants and land-based wind farms.....'I'm glad it's your electric bills and not mine,' said Robert McCullough, president of McCullough Research, an Oregon energy consulting firm, referring to Cape Wind’s prices."
"A study...contends that Connecticut has received substantial benefits from the deregulation of its electrical industry in 2000...But according to Robert McCullough, managing partner of McCullough Research of Oregon, "month after month, electric rates continue to increase in Connecticut."
"It may cost $1 billion to change the way the two nuclear reactors at Indian Point on New York's Hudson River keep themselves cool in order to satisfy environmental protection regulators. Sounds like a bundle of money, and it is...But don't shed too many tears for the plants' owner, Entergy. The plants are cash cows. According to an analysis done by longtime utility consultant and analyst Robert McCullough, in 2009 the two reactors brought in $982 million in sales and $436 million in profit before income taxes."
The reasons behind the shut-off of the Otay Mesa plant on April 1st remain unclear. SDG&E and state grid operators are still investigating what happened. "Rules for running an electricity grid call for redundancies — generally the system has to have enough backuppower to be able to take the loss of its biggest power plant or transmission line plus 5 percent, said Robert McCullough, a utility consultant in Portland, Ore.
San Diego has just two connections to the rest of the grid, so managing supply and demand here is easier than elsewhere...'The hypothesis that comes up … is somebody entered the wrong number into the computer,' he said."
"[T]he operator of the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Waterford--Dominion Energy of Virginia--would be subject to the [windfall profits tax proposed by Connecticut bill HB 5505], according to a report prepared for the Energy and Technology Committee by McCullough Research, a Portland, Ore., consulting firm.
"Dominion's net pre-tax profit from the Millstone 3 generating unit was $440 million in 2009, which translates into a 57 percent rate of return on the company's investment and a return on equity of 115 percent, according to the report."
" 'There are a lot of simple things you can do, and most of them don't require the installation of a handy-dandy meter,' says Robert McCullough, a respected energy consultant and gadget geek. He bought and installed a smart meter on his Portland, Ore., office, but for most people, he thinks smart meters are of questionable value."
"Hydro CEO Bob Brennan appeared before a provincial government sub-committee on Nov. 17 and defended the utility against the whistleblower's claims. He said a report from research consultants ICF International shows her allegations are incorrect...But on Wednesday, CBC News obtained a consultant's document from Portland, Ore.- based McCullough Research that said the ICF report contains outdated data and was 'hastily prepared.'"
"There were extensive discussions and presentations in the Energy and Technology Committee as to how renewable energy could be developed and encouraged by the state. Many Connecticut municipalities, environmental groups and businesses took part in the hearings, including AARP, which sponsored Robert McCullough, an energy expert from Portland, Ore., to give a presentation to the Energy and Technology Committee about the concrete way a state energy authority could be developed, and how it would lower electric rates."
October 19 , 2009 Electricity 'Rip-Off' is $hocking
"Without even selling one watt of power, three electricity-generating companies managed to rip off New Yorkers for an untold amount of money, the state’s powergrid operator says in a shocking admission to federal regulators. It’s the latest bigbucks cash grab alleged to have happened right under the nose of the New York Independent System Operator, whose bungles are estimated to have cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars... The ISO won’t disclose how much money is involved, when the overcharges happened, or the names of the three companies."
14, 2009 NYISO seeks changes to energy bidding
"Three upstate power providers may have cost consumers money by
artificially inflating auction bids, the nonprofit that operates the
state’s power grid has told federal regulators. An independent
study released earlier this year alleges that New York’s consumers pay
$2 billion a year more than they should for electricity because the
state’s auction system is flawed.
The study by Robert McCullough of McCullough Research in Oregon was
made public in March by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Westchester.
McCullough is the energy expert who helped uncover Enron Corp.’s energy
11, 2009 3 Generators may have cost consumers
"It turns out that you may have been paying too much for your
electricity bill after all. The New York Independent System
Operator, the North Greenbush nonprofit that operates the state's
electricity market, has told federal regulators that three power plants
in upstate New York may have been trying to inflate profits by making
artificially high bids.
The NYISO won't publicly reveal the names of the generators -- or just
how much they might have cost
5, 2009 Report:
Deregulation of electricity yields big profits for companies, costs NY
"New York's deregulated electric market allows generation plants to
reap massive profits
at the expense of taxpayers, according to a report released Friday. Industry representatives rejected the
findings that the state's top 15 generators received inflated profits. Assembly corporations committee Chairman
Richard Brodsky, a Westchester County Democrat, said the generators
have an annual rate of return between 31 and 186 percent. Brodsky
released the report with Robert McCullough, whose firm McCullough
Research conducted the study.
"These are unconscionable numbers. No other industry has a profit
margin averaging anything near these numbers annually," Brodsky said.
5, 2009 Report
Calls for More Transparent Texas Wholesale Market
"The deregulated electricity market in Texas has been a bust for
consumers due to a poorly structured wholesale market and a lack of
transparency, according to a McCullough Research report prepared for
the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
While deregulated market defenders have said high prices in Texas last
year were the result of high natural gas prices, the McCullough report
said that's not the case."
22, 2009 McCullough
finds bids in RTO markets are often ‘100 times higher than common sense
"The balancing energy markets run by regional transmission
organizations often are plagued by hockey stick bids that can be “a
hundred times higher than common sense would expect,” energy consultant
Robert McCullough said in a report, Analysis of the Balancing Energy
Market. The balancing energy markets frequently set prices in the
larger markets at very high levels, he said. At least some non-economic
bidding occurs every day in every RTO, he said."
9, 2009 Oil:
Just What Happened In 2008?
"While oil is arguably the U.S. economy's most important commodity, it
is ironic that no agency of the U.S. government has been assigned the
task of investigating and explaining the extraordinary price changes of
27, 2009 Senate
Ponders Legislative Options; FERC Backs Preemptive "Cease and Desist"
"Although we fear that the oil market may have become dominated by
speculators, we do not know who they are, or their possible impacts,"
explained Robert McCullough. Oil, natural gas and the electricity
industry are interconnected with commensurate effects on the entire
economy. According to McCullough, the inability of the federal
government to fully investigate oil price behavior in 2008 is
fundamentally a data problem, and the legislation that Congress is
considering "is a step in the right direction," as it will expand the
EIA's ability to track oil inventories within the U.S. by owner.
22, 2009 The
Case Against Fowler's Bonanza
"Besides, McCullough notes, "The outrage you're seeing, unfortunately,
is occurring after the storm is over."
With board and shareholder approval, Fowler has already sailed off with
the $4.5 million."
19, 2009 Assemblyman
Blasts NYISO Over Rates
"New Yorkers pay some of the highest electric rates in the nation – 45
percent higher than the national average. Critics say there's something
funny with the way electricity is bought and sold.
MCCULLOUGH: If you walked into the local grocery store and you found
that a loaf of bread was $1000, you’d have a pretty good sense that
something was wrong with that grocery store."
12, 2009 You
Are Too Stupid To Understand Electricity Prices Say Utilities CEOs
"The story quotes multiple executives saying electricity pricing is
"complicated." Darn right it is. But because utilities won't clearly
explain what's happening,
perhaps for fear of being exposed, consumers are expected to just
accept on face value what's happening to them. With the coming changes
consumers might not accept higher prices for much longer."
10, 2009 Investigate
this shocking charge: Is there Enron-style manipulation of N.Y.
"Are New Yorkers really being ripped off to the tune of more than $2
billion a year on their electric bills?
Energy expert Robert McCullough thinks so. And he has a track record of
sniffing out hanky-panky in the power grid.
McCullough, a consultant based in Portland, Ore., was among the first
to blow the whistle on the Enron scandal -
correctly diagnosing the brazen market manipulation that triggered
spikes and brownouts across California in the
6, 2009 Assembly
Committees Hold Hearing to Discuss NYISO Practices and High Electric
"A joint hearing by the Assembly Committee on Energy and the
Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions was held
on March 5th to discuss the practices of the New York Independent
System Operator (“NYISO”). The NYISO is a not-for-profit
corporation that began operations in 1999, operating New York’s
bulk electricity system and administering the wholesale electricity
markets. The Assembly Corporations Committee, chaired by Richard
Brodsky, held a press conference earlier in the week to release a
study conducted by McCullough Research showing that due to the
NYISO’s spot market rules and practices, New Yorkers paid $2.2
billion a year in artificial and unnecessary electricity rates on their
"...'What you have here
is price fixing,' Brodsky said. 'Elegant price fixing. Even if there is
not collusion, the system is nutty.'"
26, 2009 Washington
Wind Power Headed to California
"People who believe you can follow the green electron down the line"
may bristle at the thought of selling that power out of state, says
Robert McCullough, a Portland energy consultant. But in fact, "once you
put them on the grid, you can't tell them apart -- a green electron and
a brown electron are just figments of our imagination."
25, 2009 Blumenthal
Presses for State-Run Power Authority "The report, prepared for AARP by
McCullough Research of Portland, Ore., recommends creating a state
power authority modeled after the new Illinois Power Agency."
"AARP's report outlines how a Connecticut Power Authority could bring
competition and better serve the interests of the state in lowering
energy rates for consumers and businesses."
15 , 2008 Rell
Can Put Her Own Stamp on DPUC
"With two vacancies on the state Department of Public Utility Control,
and the likelihood of a third by the middle of next year, Gov. M. Jodi
Rell has an opportunity to remake the regulatory agency in a way that
she might find more to her liking."
"Look for someone with real business experience, someone who is a
real-life problem-solver," said Robert McCullough, managing partner of
Portland, Ore.-based McCullough Research, an energy consulting firm.
"The best state regulator is someone with a healthy dose of common
sense, someone who is straight forward. That common sense is something
you need; what you do not need is a career bureaucrat."
Staff Report on Commodity Swap Dealers & Index Traders
Page 62: "Robert F. McCullough, Jr., McCullough Research, August 2008
There is a strong possibility that the high level of concentration in
the spot and future oil markets have made the market strategies of the
principal market participants more significant than fundamentals – at
least in the short term."
15 , 2008 Cantwell
Says She's Working to 'Shed Light' on 'Dark' Oil Markets
"'This is exactly the same pattern Enron's manipulations showed in 2000
to 2001,' McCullough said in a statement. 'The CFTC's report misses the
fundamental issue by restricting their analysis to periods before the
July 2008 price spike. When the bandit leaves the bank, the money
leaves with him.'
Masters and McCullough are among six witnesses scheduled to testify
Tuesday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, of
which Cantwell is a member." -- Christopher Dunagan, Kitsap Sun
11 , 2008 Are
We Screwing in the Wrong Bulbs?
"Unfortunately, the argument is bogus, says Robert McCullough, a former
Portland General Electric executive. That’s because using less
does not mean less coal is burned. Since coal is cheap, power companies
tend to keep their coal-fired plants running day and night; when demand
for electricity ebbs, they cut back on more expensive natural gas, not
12 , 2008 Top
wholesale power rates leads to jolts
"Robert McCullough... says the energy-only market could tempt
manipulation efforts, such as generators withholding power from the
grid to narrow the gap between supply and demand and make it more
likely a high bid will be accepted." -- Tom Fowler, Houston Chronicle
28, 2008 FOX
5 Investigates Power Prices FOX
5, Washington, DC interviews Robert McCullough about the failures of
Maryland's electricity procurement auction.
7, 2008 Connecticut
Lawmakers Warned of Power Missteps
"As they grapple with consumer unrest over high electricity rates,
Connecticut lawmakers were urged by a consultant to create a state
power authority to bring down costs and stabilize the energy
sector..... Robert McCullough warned against repeating mistakes made in
California as well as in the Northeast." -- Rich Nemec, Power Market
28, 2008 BGE
Settlement Settles Little
"As the governor who promised to stop the BGE rate increase and got
hammered for failing, Martin O'Malley surely must be happy to get
something back for customers. But he might have gotten more....
'The price is surprisingly high,' McCullough Research wrote. --
Baltimore Sun, Jay Hancock
10 , 2008 New
Study on Missing Benchmark
"The gap between electricity rates in regional transmission states and
non-RTO states is widening and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
needs to reinstate a missing benchmark to analyze the problem, says a
new study... by Robert McCullough and Ann Stewart of McCullough
Research. " --
APPA Public Power Daily
14, 2007 Is
energy fox minding the henhouse?
"This month, after revealing that electricity rates could surge 35
percent for residents and up to 43 percent for businesses in 2010, PPL
Corp. shrugged off responsibility for the looming hike, saying it does
not set prices -- the marketplace does. But the energy industry plays a
critical role in policing the power market, which means the fairness of
prices depends on the industry's integrity and good faith....At the
same time, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission examines some, but
no longer all, wholesale electricity rates to ensure they are 'just and
reasonable.'... Experts, however, have put forth a number of reasons
why the power market might result in inflated prices.... 'The secrecy
in itself is a big part of the problem,' said Robert McCullough, an
electricity consultant who advised the Illinois attorney general.
'Anytime you do things in a back room, you have created incredible
potential for abuse.'" --
Morning Call, Sam Kennedy
8, 2007 Let's
see why grid watchdog barked
in Central Maryland we just got a 72 percent electric-price pop. We
want as clear a view of our deregulated electricity market as
Californians got of theirs after the Enron debacle, and this case looks
like it'll help. PJM is the nonprofit Pennsylvania company that
supervises the grid and runs the wholesale electricity market from New
Jersey to North Carolina. Maryland and other states have sought
redress with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over claims by
PJM market monitor Joseph Bowring that his bosses silenced him when he
wanted to report price irregularities and outsized profits at
generation companies. They want Bowring's operation made
independent. PJM's apparently panicked offer to settle, disclosed
Thursday, suggests that some very interesting evidence will surface if
the case is pursued .... A lot of people would actually like to see the
full set of information" at PJM, says Robert McCullough, an energy
consultant who was deeply involved in the Enron case out West. "If
we're going to live with this institution the rest of our lives, it's
pretty important that we understand what's going on with it." --
Baltimore Sun, Jay Hancock
26, 2007 Ex-Enron
Customers Win One in Court
"Snohomish County Public Utility District prevailed against Enron --
again -- last week when an administrative law judge ordered the
bankrupt energy giant to disgorge $1.6 billion in illegal profits made
from customers of West Coast utilities. Judge
Carmen Cintron also ruled that $157 million in contract termination
payments Enron was seeking from Snohomish were 'unjust profits '....
Robert McCullough, a Portland energy consultant who has spent much of
the past four years working on Enron-related cases, provided one of two
accounting estimates of Enron's energy trading profits used by the
judge to reach her $1.6 billion decision. McCullough said that most of
that money came from Northwest consumers and that PGE's customers could
be due a sizable refund. PGE was wholly owned by Enron until April
2006. It has never filed a claim on behalf of its ratepayers." --
Oregonian, Ted Slicking
17, 2007 Rebuilt
PSC begins hearings to probe electricity-rate rise
"A reconstituted state utility commission launches today its first
investigation of the electric rate increase that stunned utility
customers last year and led to the appointment of several new panel
members. . . The initiative lumps Maryland with a handful of states
stretching from Delaware to Montana that are scrutinizing deregulated
energy markets amid a consumer backlash against rising energy costs. .
. . The state of Illinois blamed flaws in a
similar energy auction for soaring energy process among that state's
utilities. The Illinois attorney general filed a complaint last month
with federal regulators, asking them to investigate allegations of
price gouging among wholesale supplies. The complaint contains
testimony from Robert McCullough, an energy consultant who said winning
bids were 40 percent higher than prices available in the broader market
at the time the Illinois auction was conducted." -- Baltimore Sun, Paul
16, 2007 Madigan
"Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on
Thursday alleged there is evidence of bid-fixing and collusion behind
the state's skyrocketing electric rates, and she formally asked a
federal regulatory agency to reverse those rates and investigate the
power suppliers of two major utilities. In a 31-page
complaint filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Madigan
lays out what she says is evidence that last year's power auction
involving Ameren and ComEd might have been fixed to ensure that
specific wholesale suppliers - including the parent companies of both
utilities - got the most lucrative parts of that business. . . .
Madigan's office said it worked with a team of experts in compiling the
complaint, including Robert McCullough, an expert on electricity
trading practices who was involved in the federal investigation into
Enron's activities in Western electric markets." -- St. Louis
Post-Dispatch, Kevin McDermott
15, 2007 Press
Release: Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan Alleges Price
Manipulation in 2006 Electricity Auction
"'Five million Illinois residents are
unnecessarily paying electricity prices that are double the actual cost
of generating electricity and 40 percent higher than electricity prices
in the wholesale electricity markets,' said Madigan. 'We undertook an
extensive investigation to find out why the prices produced by the
auction were so high. This complaint follows that lengthy investigation
of bidding patterns in the auction.' . . . The analysis prepared by
Robert McCullough concludes that the high prices produced by the
auction are largely due to a lack of competition in Illinois
electricity markets -- which U.S. Department of Justice guidelines
classify as 'highly concentrated.' He also uncovered evidence that
electricity suppliers engaged in market manipulation – driving prices
even higher." -- Office of Lisa Madigan, Robyn Ziegler
27, 2006 Report Says
Amaranth Trader May Have
Attempted to Corner Market The article quotes Robert McCullough
saying he believes Amaranth attempted to corner the natural gas market
that the "lack of federal oversight" of energy markets and hedge funds
by FERC, the CFTC and the SEC, and the CFTC is partially responsible.
-- NGI's Daily Gas Price Index
2006 FERC Lawyer
Denies Part in Enron Trades; She says she did not advise on
questionable strategies while working for the energy firm "A former Enron Corp. lawyer who last month
went to work
for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Wednesday vigorously
denied involvement with the company's questionable trading tactics,
after two senators raised questions about her hiring. . . More broadly,
however, [Robert McCullough States] 'the question is not whether Mary
Hain should be indicted,' he said Wednesday. 'The question is whether
it's appropriate for a federal regulatory agency to hire a lawyer who
had such an intimate role with all these people who we know were
committing these frauds.' " -- Los Angeles Times, Jonathan Peterson
May 22, 2006 Gas Price Gouging evidence
Cantwell Says FTC Report Leaves Many Questions Unanswered "Following Monday morning's release
of a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report on post-Katrina gasoline
price manipulation, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) renewed calls
for increased oil industry transparency and swift approval of her
legislation to enact a
tough federal ban on gas price gouging. . . In addition to evidence
outlined in the FTC report, a recent report by Portland-based energy
consultant Robert McCullough found oil and gas market anomalies
consistent with a practice known as "wash trading," where simultaneous
are executed in order to deliberately inflate volumes and revenues.
This tactic was
used by the unregulated Enron subsidiary, EnronOnline, to manipulate
commodity markets."-- U.S.
May 9, 2006 Markets vulnerable to manipulation
Robert McCullough testifies at a Democratic Policy Committee
hearing that "regulating only a few electronic
trading platforms is similar to allowing some travelers to skip
security checks. . . . Everyone becomes less secure if obvious
shortcuts around regulation exist.'" --Megawatt Daily
2006 U.S. Senate Dems
Seek Greater Energy Trading Oversight "At a Democratic Policy Committee hearing on
trading, lawmakers said skyrocketing energy prices are reminiscent of
the soaring electricity prices consumers saw in the West during the
2000-01 energy crisis - a time of high power prices, rolling blackouts,
and manipulation by Enron Corp.(ENE)." Robert
McCullough suggests, "Congress
give the CFTC authority to make sure that electronic trading platforms
are registered and regulated." -- Dow Jones International News,
Maya Jackson Randall
May 8, 2006 Senator Cantwell
Hearing on Energy Market
Transparency Exposes Anomalies in Oil and Gas Prices A press release from the office of Senator
Maria Cantwell (D-WA) says, "A new report from McCullough released at
the hearing announced that oil and gas market anomalies exist that are
consistent with a practice known as 'wash trading' where simultaneous
transactions are executed in order to deliberately inflate volumes and
revenues. This tactic was used by the unregulated Enron subsidiary,
EnronOnline, to manipulate energy commodity markets." --
May 8, 2006 Congress
Learns That Enron-Like Market Fraud Still Exists; McCullough Research
Uncovers More Enron Trading Schemes "McCullough Research will tell a Democratic
Committee oversight hearing today that U.S. gas and electricity trading
is still vulnerable to the market schemes employed by Enron Corporation
during California's 2000-2001 energy crisis. 'Widespread
opportunities for fraud and manipulation exist today, even though most
experts claim California's crisis ended years ago,' says Robert
McCullough, manager of McCullough Research." -- Business
April 17, 2006 FERC staff
defends Enron settlement offer against criticism from Snohomish
and others "Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission trial staff
defended itself last week against harsh criticism leveled at the
proposed settlement it reached with Enron on compensation Enron should
offer to two utilities for market manipulation. FERC trial staff and
Enron on March 10 filed offers of settlement to be made by Enron to the
Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County, Washington, and the
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. . . . The proposed
settlement from Enron and FERC trial staff would allocate up to $10
million in Class 6 unsecured claims to 'non-settling participants,' as
FERC put it. But that probably would amount to no more than $2.29
million, said Snohomish and Met Water. They reinforced the point with
an affidavit from consultant Robert McCullough. 'According to Enron's
current bankruptcy plan, the Class 6 unsecured claims will be paid out
at the rate of 22.9 cents per dollar. This means the $10 million in
unsecured claims obtained by trial staff … is worth $2,290,000,' said
McCullough, who has worked for several years with Northwest utility
Power Markets Week
16, 2006 Ex-Enron
lawyer lands in
federal energy post; Hiring draws fire; scope of her role at failed
firm debated "At the peak of the
California energy crisis, Mary C. Hain was a lawyer at Enron Corp.'s
Portland, Ore., trading hub where she had a front-row view of practices
that injected chaos into electricity markets and sent rates soaring.
She once scribbled: 'Answer questions, say nothing. Answer questions,
finger others.' Those notes from October 2000 were reviewed later by
investigators looking into market-gaming among the energy traders whom
she advised on legal matters. . . . 'As a lawyer, her knowledge of the
schemes and apparent indifference to corruption seems like a very poor
qualification as a regulator,' said Robert McCullough, an Oregon energy
consultant who has scrutinized the actions of Enron employees during
the troubling chapter of 2000-01." -- Chicago
Tribune, Johnathan Peterson
April 11, 2006 FERC
Spokesman: 'Look at the Facts' in Hiring of Ex-Enron Attorney "As news broke over the weekend that a former Enron
lawyer has been
hired at FERC as a trial attorney specializing in technical rate
matters, a Commission spokesperson on Monday urged skeptics to 'look at
the facts,' and not to attach a 'stigma affecting someone's career just
because of the simple fact they worked at Enron." --
Power Market Today
April 10, 2006 PGE Shares Decline on NYSE Trading
Debut "Despite Portland General Electric's recent stock
fall of 5% Robert
McCullough states, 'PGE is a peach of a utility' and 'the utility
itself is in good shape.' This article is not for distribution, please
contact the publication directly." -- Seattle Post-Intelligencer,
February 15, 2006 City
Continues to Dig into PGE's Finances Robert McCullough was interviewed by
Ley Garnett as part of an article about Portland General Electric and
the City of Portland. Robert McCullough was hired by the City of
Portland as a consultant in this matter. This article is not
available for distribution, please contact the publication for a
-- Oregon Public Radio (OPB), Ley Garnett
January 31, 2006 Hunch Becomes a Hunt PGE's
involvement with Enron and its tax payments ". The goal:
to see if the company’s involvement with improper Enron Corp. energy
shenanigans has fueled a lasting power-rate hangover for Portlanders.
If they find the evidence, Leonard has vowed to bring PGE rates down,
using a long-forgotten city ordinance that surfaced only recently. This
article is not for distribution, please contact the publication
directly. -- The Tribune, Nick
January 23, 2006 Portland Signs on Three
Scrutinize PGE Practices "Portland officials will dip into funds left over
from the failed
attempt to buy Portland General Electric to hire three energy experts
for an investigation of the utility's rate-setting practices. All
are from the Portland area: Ann Fisher, a lawyer and consultant; Robert
McCullough, a nationally recognized expert on wholesale power trading;
and David Jubb, a lawyer and accountant. This article is not for
distribution, please contact the publication directly." --
The Oregonian, Gail Kinsey Hill
September 28, 2005 Welcome to Gastoria The argument continues on whether new
terminals should be
build on the Columbia River near Astoria. While speculation
rangers from terrorist threats to spoiled views and environmental
concerns few can ignore the rising prices of Natural gas. The
irony to all this is that despite all the hubbub over LNG terminals, we
may not need them, says Robert McCullough, a Portland energy economist
and former PGE executive who has been heavily involved in a number of
high-profile energy fights. This article is not for distribution,
please contact the publication directly. -- Willamette Week, Nick
July 28, 2005 Energy Bill Could Lead to More
Oregon Public Broadcasting consults Robert McCullough regarding the
potential repeal of the the Public Utility Holding Company Act. "Robert
McCullough: When energy prices become uncontrollable and it's
impossible to audit private companies, the only solution is to find a
governmental alternative. That's why we have municipal utilities all
the way up and sown the I-5 corridor." --OPB, Ley Garnett
July 23, 2005 Power Grid Holds Up as
Demand Escalates Robert McCullough comments on California plant
shutdowns and the Stage
2 Emergency declared for Southern California on July 22, 2005. "A
power plant voluntarily shutting down in California in late July is
like Nordstrom closing shop the day before Christmas to paint its
ceilings," McCullough said. The California ISO is criticized for
failing in advance to buy reserve power. -- The San Diego
Union-Tribune, Craig D. Rose
May, 2005 Power Play In an article about the California energy crisis and
Enron's market manipulations, Robert McCullough "warns that the gaming
may not be over." -- Portland Monthly, Pamela Maclean April 4, 2005 One False Move For years, investing legend David Bonderman could do
no wrong. And then he tried to buy a utility from Enron. Like
Enron before it, Texas Pacific misunderstood how different Oregon is
from a place like Texas, says Robert McCullough, a former PGE executive
who is now a utilities analyst." -- Fortune Magazine, Nicholas Varchaver
14, 2005 Higher power
prices would harm industries here, study says Robert McCullough comments on the Bush
administrations's plan to raise
rates in the Northwest. --
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Neil Modie February 14, 2005 Study sees job
cuts in power-rate plan "The proposed price increase would, in some ways,
mimic the effects of
skyrocketing prices witnessed during the West Coast energy crisis of
2000 and 2001, warned Robert McCullough, a Portland-based energy
consultant who prepared the report. McCullough works for a number of
private companies and utilities that buy power from the BPA. The
crisis drove aluminum smelters to shut down and created havoc with the
budgets of local utilities, driving up the bills of ratepayers. With
many of the aluminum factories now gone, the brunt of the proposed
price increases would be felt by other electricity-intensive industries
such as chemical, steel and paper manufacturing, McCullough said.
Oregon also would lose between 20,000 and 30,000 jobs, according to
McCullough. -- The Seattle
Times, Warren Cornwall February 3, 2005 Script foretells
"In one of the ironies of the
Enron saga, company officials in February 2001 reviewed a script
created by InnoVision Communications that depicted unscrupulous gas
traders at work. The script even has one-time Enron Chief Executive
Officer Jeff Skilling being handed a subpoena. "In hindsight, the
script is unintentionally humorous," Robert McCullough,
managing partner of Portland, Ore.-based McCullough Research, told
federal regulators in a filing this week." -- Houston
Chronicle, David Ivanovich
December 30, 2003 Enron
loses bid for SEC exemption Robert McCullough says. "For PGE to argue that it
has a major trading operation and is
primarily intrastate at the same time would certainly stretch the
facts". -- The
Seattle Times, Amy Strahan Butler
November 19, 2003 http://www.chron.com/ Robert McCullough comments on the purchase of
Electric in November 2003. -- Houston
Chronicle, Eric Berger
August 15, 2003 Analysis: Blackout that's sweeping
across the Northeast, Midwest and parts of Canada Robert
McCullough's appeared on National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation"
discussing the 2003 Northeast blackout. 'Well, we've been
here before. In 1965, we had a blackout about half this size that
affected the same states and provinces. In that case, Congress
and the Federal Power Commission, what's now called FERC, took several
months to get to the bottom of it. This is not the sort of situation
where you can get on the Web and find an arrow. Someone has to walk
through each piece of equipment in each utility. The timing is
critical. The sheer complexity of it is unbelievable. Unlike the rest
of the world, we have integrated the electric system from Saskatchewan
to Florida, from New Orleans to Montreal, so it's a big machine.'
-- National Public Radio, Talk of the Nation, Neal
February 26, 2003 Prices
climb for power on spot market
| Increases may eventually put pressure on retail rates "Robert McCullough was one of the first people to
cite causes of the
2000 energy crisis. Robert McCullough, a Portland-based
energy consultant who was among the first to argue that the market was
rigged during the crisis, said natural gas prices are also being driven
higher by a switch from the use of oil -- whose price has also risen
sharply -- and stockpiling of natural-gas supplies. He agreed that
hydropower is also in shorter supply than usual at this time."
-- The San
Diego Union-Tribune, Craig D. Rose
January 28, 2003 Enron Trial has Captive
Oregon "When the capstone trial exploring
Enron's spectacular meltdown begins Monday in Houston, an extraordinary
array of Portland-area residents will closely watch for new insights
into the corporate debacle. Portland-based energy consultant
Robert McCullough, who continues to advise clients on issues related to
the 2000-01 power crisis, also says the high-profile trial could
unloose new trading details."
-- The Oregonian, Gail Kinsey Hill
January 3, 2003 Utilities Resume Power Trading: State
ends two year run of electricity buying Robert McCullough comments on the state of
market. "Things may get stranger before they get better,
but we are gradually returning to a normal world," said Robert
McCullough, a Portland, Ore.-based utility consultant who has
studied California's power crisis. -- The Oakland Tribune, Daniel
December 20, 2002 Big-ticket
long-term power buy is
upheld Robert McCullough comments on FERC's obligation to
"This is a situation when we have had energy traders who have pleaded
guilty to wire fraud and energy firms that have settled court charges
for enormous amounts, but FERC cannot find a connection between that
and the overcharges," McCullough said. -- The San Diego
Union-Tribune, Dean Calbreath December 13, 2002 Overcharges in Calif. Estimated;
Energy Firms Faulted, but $1.8 Billion Sum Is Less Than Sought Robert McCullough says FERC's rulings are
scattershot: "We have completely inconsistent rulings from different
cases." -- The
Washington Post, Peter Behr
November 27, 2002 California Cal-ISO Says
Force Blackouts "McCullough characterized Cal-ISO's report as an
attempt to spare
itself embarrassment because of miscalculations. 'They wrestled
the gun away from Enron, pointed it at their own feet and started
blazing away'" --Los Angeles Times, Nancy Rivera
November 12, 2002 A Big Victory by California
in Energy Case "Robert McCullough, who runs an energy consulting
firm in Portland, Ore., that has been investigating the California
energy crisis for major energy users, said that, all in all, Williams
appeared to be getting off relatively lightly. ''The value seems
low to me,'' he said. ''Williams had one of the biggest footprints in
California. They appear all over the place with possible antitrust
issues. So I'm not surprised they'd want to settle.'' -- New York
Times, David Barboza
November 12, 2002 Marketplace News "Robert McCullough recently appeared on nationally
broadcasted radio program "Marketplace" to give his thoughts on
California energy markets. 'The big profits were correlated
to market abuses in California and neighboring regions. Now that the
abuses have ended, no one seems to be able to make a dime.' --
National Public Radio(NPR), Marketplace, Steve Tripoli
May 5, 2002 Interview by Steve Curwood, Living
Earth Robert McCullough was interviewed on Living on
Earth, regarding his
testimony at the Senate hearings early in the Enron investigation. --
National Public Radio, Living on Earth, Steve
February 1, 2002 Memos Show Enrons Hands in
Robert McCullough says that, "Enron
traders deliberately tried to create the appearance of shortages and
congestion, prompting declarations of power blackouts that need not
have been called in some cases." -- Washington
Post, Peter Behr
June 1, 2001 Commodities Electricity
Prices Fall on California
Energy Crisis Robert McCullough comments about the effects of
conservation and "voluntary relinquishing of supplies by companies that
switched to market-based rates" in the Pacific Northwest: "Virtually
all of the aluminum and titanium
production and half the magnesium has shut. That's 3,000 megawatts of
load, and we've lost a lead smelter, chemical mill and paper mills." --
Dow Jones, Mark Golden
2001 Huge Bets paved way to
Enron's downfall Robert McCullough says that Enron "showed some
financial transaction going out 23 years, which is preposterous, of
course. I call it pricing by rumor." --
Chicago Tribune, Flynn McRoberts
Investigators Looking At WSCC Data On Generators "The California Public Utilities
Commission, whose investigation of high
prices in the wholesale power market continues, requested and received
data this week on power production by independent generators in the
state, according to the CPUC's manager of the investigation, Steven
Weissman. The CPUC got the data from McCullough Research, a consulting
firm in Portland, Oregon, which has been claiming that independent
generators have been gaming the system." -- Dow Jones Newswires, Mark
26, 2000 Officials Probe
Rising Cost Of Electricity "Amidst growing concern in the rise in
prices, the Western Systems
Coordinating Council refused to share its data on generation and
transmission. Robert McCullough comments 'Either everybody is way, way
off on our forecasts and we're headed for blackouts in August, or
somebody is severely manipulating the market,' Mr. McCullough says.
'The only way to tell is to get this information and sift through it.'"
-- The Wall Street Journal, Rob Eure
2000 BPA Plan for Power Lines
Gets Static From
Utilities Robert McCullough evaluates Bonneville Power
Administration plans to
create an nonprofit administrative organization to manage high-voltage
electric lines, and the potential to increase costs. -- The Wall Street
Journal, Rob Eure