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Hydro One, Avista file petition with Wash. regulator to reconsider merger

Hydro One Ltd. and Avista Corp. filed a petition with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission to reconsider its Dec. 5 order rejecting their proposed $5.3 billion merger.

In a Dec. 17 filing, the Canadian utility and Spokane, Wash.-headquartered company said the commission erred in issuing its order and "misapprehended" the political influence that Ontario's ownership in Hydro One may reflect on Avista's operations. They said the commission "failed to identify with any specificity how Provincial actions could actually impact Avista."

The companies requested the state regulator review the 82 revised stipulated commitments they say will ensure Avista's independence. The companies further said the commission's order downplayed the merger's benefits to customers and erred in concluding the possible provincial interference with Avista upon perceived harm to Hydro One shareholders.

The state utilities and transportation commission denied the proposed acquisition for not protecting Avista from the influence of the Ontario government, which owns 47% of Hydro One's shares. Being the biggest shareholder in the Toronto-headquartered transmission and distribution utility, the provincial government controls its board and limits ownership of its shares by other groups and individuals. The commission also cited the replacement of Hydro One's board of directors and CEO by Ontario Premier Doug Ford as the kind of political intervention it feared the merger would encourage.

The commission has 20 days to act on the request for reconsideration. If the commission allows a rehearing of the case, the companies requested expedited proceedings so the case could conclude by the end of January 2019 in an effort to close the transaction before the March 29 merger deadline and the expiration of the Hydro One's funding for the transaction. (Washington UTC docket U-170970)

The merger previously received needed approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and regulators in Alaska and Montana. Decisions are still pending in Idaho and Oregon.