Utah Power & Light Co. and Pacifi-Corp, after putting their proposed merger back on track, are moving ahead for another showdown with Utah regulators.
Boards of both utilities agreed in separate meetings Tuesday to proceed with plans to merge, accepting conditions placed on the merger by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.Those conditions - requiring the merged company to let competing utilities use its transmission lines at cost, or build additional transmission lines if necessary - would eliminate enough of the merger's benefits, some officials believed, to derail the deal.
Utah's Public Service Commission, fearing that opening up UP&L's transmission system to competitors would affect local rates, suspended its previous order approving the merger. The commission has scheduled a hearing for Nov. 8 to review the impact of the FERC conditions.
But, in a statement released Tuesday, UP&L President Frank N. Davis said the federal regulatory conditions won't prohibit rate reductions resulting from combining the operations of UP&L and PacifiCorp's electric utility Pacific Power & Light.
"Our commitments to reduce rates by 5-10 percent for Utah Power customers, and to stabilize rates for Pacific Power customers are unaffected by the FERC order," he said.
"We are confident that our presentation to the commission next Tuesday will clearly demonstrate that the vast majority of the savings created by the merger are unaffected by the FERC order," Davis said.
Company officials said they do not agree with all of the FERC's conclusions about the merger and don't believe the transmission access conditions are necessary.
But, "the proposed conditions should not have a significant impact on the companies' ability to capture the customer and shareholder benefits envisioned as a result of the merger." Both companies said enough benefits remain by combining administrative and generation operations to position the merged company as a low cost, competitive utility.
Directors of both companies agreed to set a Dec. 15 deadline to complete the merger. If the merger goes through, UP&L would become a division of PacifiCorp as UP&L shareholders convert their stock into PacifiCorp shares at a minimum value of $32.25 a share or a maximum of $38 a share.
In late afternoon trading, UP&L stock was at $31.50 a share, up 87.5 cents, on heavy volume, and PacifiCorp shares were trading at $36.375, down 37.5 cents.