Despite the fact that Northeast Utilities is the parent company of the Connecticut Light & Power, the state's largest electric company, the agency that oversees regulated utilities in Connecticut won't be required to sign off on NU's deal to acquire NSTAR, which was announced last month.
That's because of the way the deal between Hartford-based NU and NSTAR - which was announced Oct. 18th - is structured, according to Phil Dukes, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control. State law only requires the DPUC to rule on a merger when "a change in control of utility occurs and the transaction involves public service companies and assets outside of Connecticut," Dukes said.
"NU isn't considered a utility," he said. "It's a holding company."
That may seem like splitting hairs to average folks like you and I, but according to Dukes, it's the way the law is written.
For those with long memories, the way the law is written would explain why the DPUC was required to act upon the proposed 1999 merger between New York's Consolidated Edison and NU. The terms of that deal would have made ConEd the controlling company, Dukes said, so Connecticut utility regulators had to rule on the merger.
ConEd abandoned the deal in March 2001 after the DPUC imposed requirements on the merger that the New York company found unacceptable.
But although Connecticut officials aren't required to act upon this latest merger - that task falls to Massachusetts utility regulators because that's where NSTAR is headquartered - it doesn't mean the DPUC doesn't care about it, said Kevin DelGobbo, who chairs the DPUC.
"With the merger of NU and NSTAR, NU will become the largest utility company in the Northeast," DelGobbo said. "It is imperative that ratepayer interests in Connecticut are protected and that the viability of The Connecticut Light and Power Company and Yankee Gas Services Company (utility companies that are owned by NU) are preserved."
Under an agreement approved by NU officials, the DPUC will receive regular presentations on the transaction, updating its status before Massachusetts regulators, Dukes said.
"Any materials they file with any agency, they have agreed they will file with us as well," he said.
All materials relating to the transaction filed with the DPUC will be maintained on a section of the the agency's website. Click here
to go directly to that portion of the DPUC web site.
If the merger of NU and NSTAR is approved, the combined company will operate six regulated electric and gas utilities in three states and will have nearly 3.5 million electric and gas customers. NU will have nearly 4,500 miles of electric transmission lines, 72,000 miles of electric distribution lines and 6,000 miles of gas distribution lines.