State regulators have denied an emergency appeal filed by a Durham-based nuclear watchdog group seeking to allow greater scrutiny of the proposed merger between Duke Energy and Progress Energy during Monday's scheduled public hearing.
The N.C. Utilities Commission ruled late Friday that N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network has not shown a good reason as to why the hearing should consider a broader range of issues, including more than dozen private settlements that Duke and Progress reached with large customers in exchange for those customers not opposing the merger.
The $26 billion merger, originially proposed in January 2011, was approved two weeks ago by federal regulators in Washington. The last major hurdle is the N.C. Utilities Commission, which has scheduled a hearing Monday afternoon in Raleigh.
The 2 p.m. hearing is strictly limited: N.C. WARN will be able to ask questions about three filings made in May and June.
Raleigh-based Progress and Charlotte-based Duke are proposing to form the nation's largest electric utility with operations in a dozen states and in South America. The merger would result in the elimination of 1,860 positions over three years at both companies and the elimination of Progress Energy's corporate headquarters in downtown Raleigh.
In exchange for promises not to oppose the merger, the two electric companies have cut deals with organization representing virtually every customer in North Carolina, promising to deliver the merger's financial benefits to those groups. They are rural electric cooperatives, municipal power agencies, industrial power users and the Public Staff, the state's consumer protection bureau in utility matters before the N.C. Utilities Commission.
The N.C. commission is widely expected to rule on the merger promptly to acquiesce to the utilities self-imposed deadline to complete the deal by July 8, the date the termination agreement runs out and the companies can walk away from the deal without paying hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties.