Conn. AG pleased with decision to review merger

Bryan Cohen Jan. 4, 2012, 3:28pm


HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen praised state utility regulators on Wednesday for a draft decision that would allow a state review of the proposed merger of Northeast Utilities and NSTAR.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority reconsidered its earlier position in a draft decision on Wednesday, deciding that it did have authority to review the proposed merger. The merger between NU and NSTAR, a Boston-based utility holding company, would create one of the largest utility companies in the nation.

"[PURA is] legally obliged to review the proposed merger to ensure that after any resulting merger [NU's Connecticut Light & Power Co. and Yankee Gas Co. subsidiaries] will have the qualifications and ability to provide safe, adequate, reliable and reasonably-priced services for Connecticut customers," PURA said in its draft decision.

A final decision is expected January 18.

"I am pleased that the PURA has decided to review the proposed merger of NU/NSTAR," Jepsen said. "The PURA has correctly decided that this merger requires Connecticut review and approval before it may go forward. The proposed merger combines the region's largest utility companies and will have profound impacts on Connecticut and its electric and gas companies, including their rates, reliability, quality of service and storm response."

Jepsen previously filed multiple comments with PURA urging the agency to take action. He said the "change in control" of NU's corporate structure and management and the effect on NU's Connecticut subsidiaries called for PURA's review. In addition, the utility's preparation for and response to Tropical Storm Irene and the October snow storm allegedly raised a major issue about the utility's management and its executive leadership that required addressing by the regulators.

"While this new draft decision is a very positive step, I will ask the PURA to incorporate a critical further protection in its final decision - an order that the merger may not occur before PURA completes its full review and issues a final decision," Jepsen said.

"Connecticut's consumers deserve a meaningful, thorough review process. It is important that the review look not only at how the new company will be structured and how it will operate, but also determine what conditions need to be in place to ensure NU's Connecticut customers share in any benefits."

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