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FERC Chairman: "I think everybody needs to move on."

The nation's top utilities regulator, who oversaw the approval of the merger between Progress Energy and Duke Energy last month, staunchly defended the right of a corporate board to fire the CEO and replace him at will.

The comments by Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, suggest that even if such a CEO switch is unpopular with other board members, employees and state regulators, "everybody needs to move on."

Wellinghoff made his comments Tuesday at an industry conference in Washington. His remarks were reported by Bloomberg News.

Wellinghoff's remarks came in response to reporters' questions about Charlotte-based Duke's firing of CEO Bill Johnson, 58, just hours after the merger was completed July 2. Wellinghoff noted that he's not specifically discussing Duke or Johnson because the FERC docket on the matter remains open and he can't comment on it, Bloomberg reported.

"I believe that a board of directors of a utility has the right to decide whoever they want to run the utility," Wellinghoff said at a Platts Energy Podium. "Once the board of directors does that, regardless of their timing, I think everybody needs to move on."

Progress, Duke, Consumer Advocate: Merger Hearings Not Needed

The state's consumer advocate says there's no need to hold another round of public hearings on the proposed merger between Progress Energy and Duke Energy.

The Public Staff, as the state's consumer protection agency is called, told the N.C. Utilities Commission late Wednesday that the merger proposal is ready for a ruling.

The Public Staff is arguably the most influential independent participant in the merger proceedings and the bureau's position points to a likely imminent ruling from the N.C. commission.

The N.C. commission is the last major hurdle for the $26 billion utility deal, which was announced 18 months ago and finally approved Friday by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Friday.

Duke and Progress respond to regulators request for more info on merger

Duke Energy and Progress Energy have responded to federal regulators request for more information on their latest merger plan.

In a statement, the companies said they don't expect the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's request to affect efforts to complete the merger by July 1.

They said the FERC's requests were common and "were technical and focused on the transmission-related models that Duke and Progress submitted as an exhibit to the March 26 revised mitigation plan. Many of our responses involved re-formatting data previously submitted to FERC as part of that filing."

In a letter Tuesday, the FERC gave the companies seven days to respond.

Under the plan submitted in March, the companies would spend about $110 million on seven transmission projects intended to bring competitors' power into the Carolinas, increasing market competition.

Duke and Progress have also signed power purchase deals with three wholesale electricity marketing companies that would be in effect until the transmission projects are finished.

FERC raised about a dozen issues in Tuesday's filing. Among them were questions about the companies' analytical models supporting the transmission projects.

FERC cited problems with models addressing competition concerns in Progress' Carolinas territory.

Latest merger concession from Progress, Duke: Up to $150 million in transmission upgrades

Progress Energy and Duke Energy this afternoon made their third -- and most expensive -- merger proposal in a bid to win approval from regulators in Raleigh and in Washington.

The two power companies proposed building up to $150 million in transmission lines, including upgrades in the Triangle, in order to expand competition in the Carolinas between wholesale electricity producers. The proposal is intended to address concerns at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington that the merged power company would manipulate market prices of wholesale electricity in the region.

The cost and extent of the concessions will almost certainly require North Carolina regulators to reopen merger proceedings in this state and potentially hold another round of hearings. The extra proceedings will prolong regulatory merger reviews into the summer as regulators and company executives negotiate who will pay for the transmission upgrades.

 

1330006515 Latest merger concession from Progress, Duke: Up to $150 million in transmission upgrades The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Duke, Progress move back merger date to mid-year

Duke Energy and Progress Energy have delayed the closing date of their corporate merger as the two North Carolina electric companies face tough regulatory scrutiny of their proposed $26 billion deal.

In a memo to employees issued today, the companies said the earliest their merger could now close is May or June. Just last month, Charlotte-based Duke and Raleigh-based Progress predicted they could finish their merger as soon as March.

The update is the latest in a series of developments that indicate the merger is turning out to be far more complicated than company executives had expected.

"Based on the time needed for our analysis and the estimated time for regulatory reviews and approvals, we believe the earliest the merger could close is May or June," Progress Senior Vice President Paul Sims wrote to employees.

Duke, Progress extend merger deadline to July

Progress Energy and Duke Energy have set July 8 as a new date to complete their corporate merger, seven months past their original self-imposed deadline.

The two electric utilities set their new date in filing this week at the Securities Exchange Commission as they work toward completing their $26 billion deal. It means either company can abandon the merger after the set date expires, but they both have the option of adding more extensions.

Progress spokesman Mike Hughes said the new date is a formality, replacing the previous termination date that expired Monday because the merger is still being worked out.

"Having an initial termination date is fairly standard in agreements of this sort (which require lengthy approvals)," Hughes said by email. "It’s the date on which either company can walk away from the deal without paying a penalty."
 

Duke, Progress vow to salvage merger

Progress Energy and Duke Energy this afternoon vowed to press ahead with their corporate merger, despite two previous rejections from federal regulators.

The two North Carolina electric utilities plan to file a revised proposal to address federal monopoly concerns, adding that the earliest possible date the $26 billion deal could be completed would be in March. Some Wall Street analysts are projecting the merger will take six more months to complete.

Charlotte-based Duke and Raleigh-based Progress announced 11 months ago they plan to form the nation's largest electric utility, with 7.1 million customers in six states. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said twice, most recently yesterday, that the merger would allow the two companies to manipulate market prices of electricity in North Carolina.

The federal commission wants the companies to give up control of power plants or transmission lines, either by selling or leasing those assets.

In a joint statement issued this afternoon, the companies said they will file a revised merger plan as soon as they review the federal commission's most recent order.

"The FERC ruling does not call into question the benefits of the merger," the joint statement said. "The combination of Duke Energy and Progress Energy will provide clear benefits for our customers, including overall lower corporate costs and $650 million in guaranteed benefits to customers in the Carolinas from the joint dispatch of the utilities' generation fleets and from power plant fuel savings."

 

Duke-Progress merger ruling could come soon

With a decision from the feds possible in the coming weeks on the $26 billion merger between Duke Energy and Progress Energy, participants are jockeying for last-minute advantage in the proceedings.

The towns of New Bern and Rocky Mounty are making a final push to persuade the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that the merger will give the two utilities too much power to manipulate electricity prices.

The FERC, which is largely concerned with monopolies and price manipulation, is one of two major hurdles the merger must clear. The N.C. Utilities Commission is evaluating the merger's costs and benefits to the state, but is not likely to rule until the FERC makes its decision.

Duke and Progress, which announced their merger nearly a year ago, have asked the FERC to rule by Dec. 15 so they can complete their merger this year, forming the nation's largest electric utility. They have plans in place to cut 2,000 positions when they integrate the two companies and establish headquarters in Charlotte.

Federal regulators now reviewing two parallel merger applications from Duke Energy and Progress Energy

Federal regulators in Washington said today they would reconsider the utility merger application filed by Progress Energy and Duke Energy.

The two North Carolina power companies, which want to combine into the nation's largest electric utility, had asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reconsider its Sept. 30 order. That order said the companies must address concerns that their merger could lead them to manipulate electricity prices in North Carolina.

Charlotte-based Duke and Raleigh-based Progress have since suggested such measures, but they also asked the FERC to reconsider their original merger application.

As a result, the FERC is now reviewing two merger applications: the original and the modified version.
 

1322535947 Federal regulators now reviewing two parallel merger applications from Duke Energy and Progress Energy The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Two N.C. towns fight on against Duke-Progress merger

The Cities of New Bern and Rocky Mount this afternoon urged federal regulators to force Progress Energy and Duke Energy to sell off power plants as a condition of approving their merger, the most sweeping proposal to date to curtail monopoly concerns.

The filing before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency reviewing the Duke-Progress merger, argues that the two utilities would manipulate electricity prices unless drastic measures are taken to reduce the monopoly powers of the combined company.

The federal commission's response will determine if the merger is approved in a matter of weeks, or if the $26 billion deal is delayed, which could take a year if the companies are forced to submit a new application.

 

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