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Kelliher Supports Expanding FERC's Merger Review Authority

Not only should FERC retain its existing authority to review mergers of public electric utilities and combination electric-natural gas utilities, but it should be expanded, said FERC Commissioner Joseph Kelliher last Wednesday.

He said he "respectfully, but wholeheartedly disagree[d]" with outgoing Commission Chairman Pat Wood, who signaled last Monday that he would not object if Capitol Hill lawmakers took away the agency's merger authority.

Removing FERC's merger authority "is an idea that's not new. It first came up in the late 1990s and was based on the false premise" that the merger review process is too long at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Kelliher said. He noted that agency reviews of utility mergers average 114 days. "That seems to be pretty quick action to me."

Kelliher said the Bush administration, the Republican leaders in Congress and "most of the Commission" support beefing up FERC's authority to review public utility mergers.

Wood last Monday indicated that FERC examinations of utility mergers may be unnecessary, given that the Department of Justice (DOJ) also reviews energy mergers.

In a number of cases, "they [DOJ] don't do" reviews of electric utility mergers, but rather "they defer to us" because of the agency's expertise in this area, Kelliher countered.

Separately, Kelliher would not say whether he was still in the running to replace Wood, who is leaving the Commission on June 30. "I have no comment on that," he told NGI.

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