The North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) on Friday approved the pending merger between Duke Energy and Cinergy Corp., marking the final regulatory hurdle to the transaction, which is expected to close around April 1.

The NCUC placed more than 70 conditions on the deal. Among other things, Duke Power, a unit of Duke Energy, must cut rates for North Carolina customers by about $117.5 million and pass on to customers any fuel-related savings realized by the merger.

Duke Energy has until March 31 to accept the commission’s terms.

In Mid-March, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) approved an agreement resolving all issues related to the IURC’s review of the merger.

The merger, announced May 9, 2005, was approved by both companies’ shareholders on March 10 and has also received approvals from state regulators in Ohio, Kentucky and South Carolina.

At the federal level, the Duke-Cinergy merger has received approvals from FERC and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The companies also have satisfied Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Justice review under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976.

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