Opponents are already jockeying for legal advantage in next week's public hearings on the proposed merger between Duke Energy and Progress Energy.
The two power companies today asked the N.C. Utilities Commission to quash some objections raised by critics of the merger as irrelevant. If the companies prevail, the environmental groups would be barred from arguing some of their points.
The hearings are set to begin Tuesday, with Progress CEO Bill Johnson and Duke CEO Jim Rogers expected to testify on the first day. The hearings could last four days to give time to hear witnesses and listen to experts and go through cross-examinations.
More pre-trial filings are due later this week to the utilities commission as the two utilities seek to convince the utilities commission to rule critics' objections out of bounds.
Last week a number of organizations said the two companies have failed to offset the economic damage that will be caused by the loss by as many as 1,000 jobs in downtown Raleigh. State law requires that in utility mergers benefits must outweigh the costs and risks.
Today Raleigh-based Progress and Charlotte-based asked the commission to disallow a number of objections raised by the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association, a Raleigh trade group that contents the utilities should be required to provide financial support to energy conservation programs as a condition of the merger.
"The reason NCSEA opposes the merger is a larger and more financially strong utility will, all other things being equal, have a grater capability to make large capital investments, such as constructing new nuclear facilities, which NCSEA apparently opposes," the companies told the commission. "It would seem the NCSEA would support the merger if the combined company committed to only use this benefit to build new renewable generation or invest in energy efficiency programs."