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UTILITIES DISMISS MERGER FEARS

Progress Energy and Duke Energy on Tuesday urged regulators to reject calls for new hearings on their impending merger, saying concerns that the deal will hurt consumers are unfounded.

In a 13-page document, the utilities told the North Carolina Utilities Commission that they either addressed or will respond in the appropriate forum to questions raised this week about their nuclear plans and projects.

Challengers of the merger, including the Florida Consumer Action Network, said the commission should further review the troubles at Progress' broken Crystal River nuclear plant and the growing cost of the utility's proposed $24 billion Levy County nuclear plant because both could cause substantial increases to all customers' bills.

NC WARN also wants the utilities commission and the North Carolina attorney general to investigate allegations of "secret deals" with some regulators regarding the merger.

"The merger of the applicants, if approved, will do nothing to impair the commission's ability to review and take appropriate action if and when any of the events of concern ... actually occur," the utilities stated.

Ivan Penn can be reached at ipenn@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2332.

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