Staff attorneys for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have urged the commission to approve the proposed merger of PacifiCorp and Utah Power & Light Co., despite an administrative law judge's recommendation to the contrary.

The attorneys filed a legal brief with FERC contending that the commission's administrative law judge George Lewnes erred on several grounds in his denial opinion issued last month.The brief filed by attorneys C. Stephen Angle, Thomas J. Conley and Joseph H. Long in Washington, D.C., said the errors included Lewnes' determination that the merger's estimated $18 million cost would not be recouped by its economic benefits.

The lawyers also contended that Lewnes "incorrectly found that it would not be possible to regulate effectively the merged company." The attorneys said the commission could place conditions on the merger that would satisfy Lewnes' objections.

Lewnes concluded the merger would reduce competition among power companies in the West by effectively denying competitors access to the north-south lines.

The attorneys said Lewnes also wrongly required the Portland-based PacifiCorp and Salt Lake City-based Utah Power to submit data on their cost of providing electricity, including those of a merged company.

The Utah Division of Public Utilities has filed a brief with FERC taking exceptions of Lewnes' opinion. The Utah agency provides staff research to the state's utility-regulating body, the Public Service Commission.