TORONTO – Hydro One Ltd. and Avista Corp. have formally requested that the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission reconsider its order denying approval of the $6.7-billion takeover of the U.S.-based energy utility.
In a 34-page filing on Monday, the two companies say the commission erred in reaching its decision because it “misapprehended” the political risks that Ontario’s ownership stake in Hydro One poses to Avista, understated the value of the transaction’s benefits to ratepayers, and incorrectly based its conclusion about possible provincial interference with Avista upon perceived harm to Hydro One shareholders.
Hydro One and Avista requested that the commission rehear the order to accept additional evidence, including a letter from Ontario’s deputy minister of energy and testimony from Hydro One’s new president and CEO.
If a rehearing is granted, Hydro One and Avista requested expedited proceedings that conclude by the end of January, two months before the March 29 closing deadline in the merger agreement and subsequent expiration of Hydro One’s funding for the transaction.
Washington state regulators had said they would not allow Ontario’s largest utility to buy Avista for fear the provincial government, which owns 47 per cent of Hydro One’s shares, might meddle in Avista’s operations.
The U.S. regulator cited Premier Doug Ford’s move to force former Hydro One CEO Mayo Schmidt to retire, which was followed by the resignation of the entire 14-member board, as evidence that the province was willing to put political interests above those of shareholders, including those that own a majority of the Ontario utility’s stock.