The Public Staff is the independent state agency charged with protecting the interests of utility customers. The stipulations will ensure that the proposed acquisition won’t have an adverse impact on customer bills or service of either company. With the stipulations, the Public Staff said Duke’s acquisition of Piedmont “is justified…and meets the standard for approval.”
Some of the stipulations include:
- Piedmont’s North Carolina customer bills collectively would decrease by $10 million, spread over the first two years after the acquisition;
- The combined company would make annual charitable contributions totaling at least $17.5 million in North Carolina during each of the four years after the acquisition;
- The combined company would commit $7.5 million for low-income household energy assistance and community job training programs during the first year after the acquisition;
- Certain expenses related to the acquisition, including severance costs and investment banker and legal fees for transaction structuring, would be excluded from customer bills; and
- Duke Energy and Piedmont would be subject to a “Code of Conduct,” specific to the acquisition, ensuring, among other things, that their customers would continue to benefit from competitive gas prices.
When the acquisition is closed sometime around the end of 2016, Piedmont will retain its name and operate as a business unit of Duke Energy. The deal is subject to approval by the North Carolina Utilities Commission. It has been approved by the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, contingent on NCUC approval. The Federal Trade Commission conducted an anti-trust review and approved the deal. Piedmont’s shareholders have also approved the acquisition.