DC approves mega-utility merger

Local regulators in Washington, D.C., paved the road for a $6.8 billion merger Wednesday to create the country’s largest publicly held electric utility.

The city’s Public Service Commission voted 2 to 1 to approve the merger of Pepco Holdings and Exelon Corp., almost two years after it was first proposed and after previously rejecting two proposals for the merger.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Justice Department and public utility boards in Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland had previously approved the mega-merger, leaving D.C. as the last hurdle.

The companies still have to approve the commission’s decision and agree to its conditions.

The D.C. commission concluded that the merger would be in the public interest, given agreements the companies have made for energy efficiency and conservation programs, putting aside money for consumer initiatives and modernizing the electric grid.

“These benefits, among others, would not be available to District ratepayers if the merger is not approved,” it said in a statement.

Pepeco, Exelon and their supporters have rushed in recent weeks to sweeten the deal for D.C., following news that the city’s mayor and other major city offices opposed it.

Environmentalists and consumer advocates remain staunchly opposed.

“We are deeply disappointed that the commission discarded its well-informed and publicly supported position to reject the takeover,” Allison Fisher, outreach director at Public Citizen, said in a statement.

“This is a huge loss for consumers, a discouraging setback for the institutions entrusted to protect them and a sad commentary on how things are done in the District.”