Utility Deal May Clear Final Hurdle
Final regulatory approval of the proposed merger of Washington Water Power Co. and Sierra Pacific Resources could come as soon as the end of the week with favorable action in Olympia and Washington, D.C.
If the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission give their consents, said WWP spokesman Pat Lynch, the deal could close Dec. 15, almost a year and a half after the companies disclosed their plans.
“We would like to get it done,” he said.
The Nevada Public Service Commission Tuesday refused to change controversial language in its Oct. 6 order approving the transaction, which will create a new utility - Altus - that sells water, electricity and natural gas to customers in six states from Montana to California.
The merger is expected to cut costs for Altus by $450 million over the next 10 years. Rates would be frozen until Jan. 1, 2001.
But the Nevada regulators want WWP and Sierra to submit information that would indicate what rates would be in the future if Altus operated as a single system instead of two.
WWP rates are much lower than those of Sierra.
Although the Nevada commissioners deny any intent to require single-system pricing, Washington officials responded by shelving their consent order and drafting a new version that would insulate Washington ratepayers from any Nevada regulatory action.
WWP and Sierra Pacific officials said earlier this month they could live with those safeguards. Lynch said the Washington commission could accept that amended order today, depending on what action FERC takes.
The federal agency was to meet a few hours before the WUTC convenes. If FERC wants Washington to act first, final approval may not occur until the federal agency meets Dec. 13, its last scheduled 1995 session, Lynch said.