Next step undecided

September 24, 2006|By Paul Adams | Paul Adams,Sun reporter

The next step in the proposed merger of Constellation Energy Group and FPL Group Inc. remains murky as attorneys for the companies continue to review a court decision that could hold up regulatory approval of the deal.

The Maryland Court of Appeals earlier this month struck down legislation aimed at firing the Maryland Public Service Commission, but left in place a provision preventing the existing members from ruling on the merger. The court said it wasn't asked to address the matter, all but inviting the two energy companies or the PSC to file lawsuits challenging that portion of the legislation.

Both companies and the PSC said Friday that they are still reviewing the court's 126-page decision and contemplating their next moves. Meanwhile, it remains unclear whether hearings on the merger will take place as scheduled.

"This is an extremely complex decision that requires a very thorough review and, as such, that process continues," said Rob Gould, a spokesman for Baltimore-based Constellation. A spokeswoman for FPL in Juno Beach, Fla., made a similar statement.

Constellation and FPL have said the timing of merger hearings is critical to the deal and any substantial delays in the schedule could lead to its demise. But representatives of both companies say they remain committed to getting the deal done.

The companies had hoped to complete the transaction by the end of the year. The commission's current schedule wouldn't lead to a ruling on the merger until February.

The court's ruling came after PSC Chairman Kenneth D. Schisler sued to save his job, resulting in a legal brawl that went to the state's highest court. Lawmakers wanted Schisler out after critics said he was too cozy with the companies the PSC regulates. A PSC spokeswoman said no decisions have been made on whether the commission will continue with the merger proceedings as scheduled.

William Fields, senior assistant people's counsel, said the consumer advocacy agency is preparing for merger hearings while the parties consider their next move.

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