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Duke, Progress Try To Limit Arguments At Merger Hearing

http://66.225.205.104/LM20110919.mp3

Last month the shareholders of Duke and Progress Energy approved the merger. But the North Carolina Utilities Commission needs to give its stamp of approval before the deal can go through. Public hearings before the commission begin tomorrow in Raleigh. Duke and Progress are trying to limit some of the testimony. Duke and Progress Energy have asked the utilities commission to exclude some arguments from environmental groups and other groups critical of the merger. Duke spokesman Tom Williams says their arguments don't have to do with the merger's impact on ratepayers. "Some of the things being raise by these groups really don't fit within the subject matter of this hearing," says Williams. One of the arguments Duke and Progress are trying to exclude is from the Sierra Club. The group raises concerns about the merger's impact on the economy. Duke and Progess have said the merger could amount to more than 1,000 job cuts. The Sierra Club says Duke and Progress have failed to show how they would lessen the economic damage of those reductions. Duke and Progress contend arguments regarding the economy, energy efficiency and clean energy fall outside the scope of the hearing. They say it only has to do with how it impacts rates. Earlier this month, the companies struck a deal with the Public Staff, the state's consumer advocate on utility matters. Duke and Progress agreed to pass on $650 million in savings to customers in the first five years after the merger closes.