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Southland Utilities Offer Details on Merger Plans

Times Staff Writer

Southern California Edison’s proposed merger with San Diego Gas & Electric would save the utilities $1.7 billion during the next decade, according to documents the two utilities have filed with the state Public Utilities Commission.

SDG&E; and Edison repeated their previous assertion that only 1,000 jobs would be lost after the proposed merger that would create the nation’s largest gas and electric utility. However, the filing suggested for the first time that an additional 1,700 employees probably will be transferred if the merger occurs. Edison Vice President Michael Peevey on Monday said it was too early to say which employees would face probable transfers.

Executives at both utilities maintained that the merger would lead to lower electric rates for the new company’s 4.8 million customers, improved service, a more reliable electric supply and reduced air pollution. “The merged companies will be a stronger, more efficient utility, with a diversified power supply and fuel mix,” according to the documents, which were filed late Friday.

The joint filing--an eight-inch-thick collection of documents--provided the first comprehensive analysis of how the combined company would operate. The PUC will use the complex and wide-ranging document during its upcoming review of the merger.

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The filing drew immediate criticism from environmentalists, consumer groups and politicians in San Diego, who have opposed the proposed merger since it was announced Nov. 30.

The filing “seemed to ignore a lot of the concerns raised by us and other San Diegans,” said Michael Shames, executive director of Utility Consumers Action Network, a San Diego-based consumer group. “They tried to put a nice window dressing (on the proposed merger) but there’s still nothing that makes me think that this is a good deal for San Diego residents.”

The utilities also relied heavily upon what critics in the past have labeled “celebrity witnesses.”

James S. Schlesinger, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, endorsed the proposed merger as a “sensible and worthwhile step” that will “yield real benefits, especially over time.”

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The merger also won praise from Lee M. Thomas, who served as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the last half of the Reagan Administration. Thomas said the proposed merger’s environmental impact seemed to be “consistent with the objectives of achieving long-term, stable improvements in air quality for Southern California.”


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