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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California leaders desperately searching for a way out of the state's power crisis have pitched the idea of a regional "buyers' cartel." They want to band together with Washington and Oregon and refuse to pay high wholesale prices for electricity.

But the plan is getting a distinctly cool reception in the Pacific Northwest.

"It's not something that we have embraced," Washington Gov. Gary Locke said in a recent radio interview. "It's just the idea of a few legislators in California."

The proposal isn't on the front burner with Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, either, says spokesman Jon Coney.

Despite the tepid response from his two fellow Democrats, California Gov. Gray Davis insisted as recently as Thursday the cartel idea "is under active consideration."

"There's no plan you can think of that we're not staffing out to see if it produces more good than bad," Davis said.

The notion, floated by Democratic legislative leaders in the California, is that the three states have common interests, particularly since drought in the Northwest is expected to cut the region's usually plentiful supply of hydroelectric power.

The states in the regional "cartel" would refuse to pay more for electricity than a predetermined price, a price calculated to give wholesalers a reasonable profit.

Proponents, who've introduced a resolution in the California Assembly, say generators would have to honor the states' self-imposed spending cap or risk being locked out of the lucrative regional market.

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