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Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 00:19 GMT 01:19 UK
Bush rejects California energy plea
Three Mile Island power station
California's wholesale electricity prices have rocketed
President George W Bush has rejected demands by the authorities in California for the federal government to intervene to force down the soaring price of electricity in the state.

We will not take any action that makes California's problem worse - and that is why I am opposed to price caps

President Bush
At the start of a three-day visit to California, Mr Bush said price-caps would make the problem of chronic energy shortages worse.

But the president said he would ask Congress to release $150m to help low-income Californians pay their energy bills.

It does not matter if someone thinks we should have relief; the law says we should have relief

California Governor Gray Davis
The governor of California, Gray Davis, criticised Mr Bush's decision not to intervene, saying Californians were entitled to relief.

The state has been experiencing frequent rolling blackouts and a sharp increase in electricity prices since the beginning of the year.

Calls for relief

Governor Davis had argued that California was being "gouged unbelievably".

Mr Davis, a Democrat with hopes of challenging Mr Bush for the presidency in 2004, had earlier demanded that Washington force down electricity prices that have cost California nearly $8bn since January.

"It does not matter if someone thinks we should have relief; the law says we should have relief," the governor said.

Court ruling

Earlier on Tuesday, a federal appeals court declined to order US energy regulators to cap wholesale electricity prices.

California State Senate President John Burton, Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg and the city of Oakland had asked to court to order the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Ferc) to cap electricity prices.

"The citizens of California are suffering immediate irreparable harm as a result of Ferc's abrogation of its duty to establish just and reasonable rates for electricity," they argued in their suit.

The court panel ruled that the appeal did not warrant its intervention.

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