The Energy Department's Economic Regulatory Administration is trying to go out of business and clean up old accounts at the same time. Monday, the ERA announced that Standard Oil Co. (Ohio) has agreed to pay $15 million ($5 million to the U.S. Treasury and $10 million to various states and the District of Columbia) to settle alleged oil pricing violations between 1973 and 1981. The public will have 30 days to comment on the proposed settlement.
So far, more than $1 billion in alleged oil pricing violations have been settled, but more than 600 cases (of 1,000 or so) remain. ERA officials say they are moving briskly to wrap up as many as possible by Sept. 30, the date ERA chief Rayburn Hanzlik once promised to close the office for good. Hanzlick, you may recall, spent his early months in the job lowering the expectations of those (including the General Accounting Office) who projected as much as $13 billion in overcharges. The real number, Hanzlick predicted, would be between $1.5 billion and $3 billion.
The Standard of Ohio settlement is only the second that proposes distributing money direct to the states. According to sources, if the agreement sticks, the big winners would be Ohio with $4.4 million and Pennsylvania and New York, each with more than $1 million. Maryland would get $331,906, Virginia $304,369 and D.C. $33,554.
There are no restrictions on how the states can use the money, a spokesman in Hanzlick's office said.