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Southwest-Oneok Merger Moving Ahead

Southwest-Oneok Merger Moving Ahead

Southwest Gas Corp., Oneok Inc. and the Office of Ratepayer Advocates (ORA), the consumer advocacy arm of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), have submitted a joint recommendation to the CPUC that the proposed merger of Southwest and Oneok be approved.

Regulators in Nevada and Arizona also have jurisdiction over the merger. The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) has already unanimously approved the merger. In Arizona, the utilities have agreed with the staffs of the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) and Residential Utility Consumer Office (RUCO) on terms and conditions governing the merger. The ACC is expected to act on the merger proposal in August, and the CPUC in September or October, Southwest Gas said.

The joint recommendation with the ORA requires merger savings be shared on a 50-50 basis between the company and its California customers and requires service standards be maintained at current Southwest Gas levels. If the joint recommendation is adopted by the CPUC, customers will receive $2 million in merger savings during the first five years following the closing.

If all regulatory approvals are obtained on approximately the expected timetable, the company expects the merger will be consummated about midway through the fourth quarter of 1999.

In other Southwest-Oneok merger news, a lawsuit filed by Southern Union against Oneok and Southwest and certain officers of the companies was said by Oneok CEO Larry Brummett to be without merit. "This action appears to be nothing more than another desperate attempt by Southern Union to slow the approval process and create confusion about the pending ONEOK-Southwest Gas merger. The accusations made against ONEOK in this lawsuit are false. We have done nothing illegal or improper in our efforts to move forward with the approval process and we do not plan to be deterred by the efforts of Southern Union."

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