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VIA Hip-Hop NC

The N.C. Utilities Commission is holding hearings this week in Raleigh on the two power companies’ plan to create the nation’s largest electric utility. This week’s hearings will be the only forum for the public to debate the merger, a fact several speakers decried.

“We urge you to take these meetings to the communities whose interests you are obligated to serve,” Miriam Thompson of Chapel Hill said to a round of applause from the audience

As residents spoke emotionally about the merger — mostly against the proposal — Duke CEO Jim Rogers and Progress CEO Bill Johnson stood by, awaiting their turn to make presentations to the utilities commission.

Rogers and Johnson are not likely to get their chance to speak until late this afternoon or possibly tomorrow morning. Johnson will become CEO of the combined Duke Energy when the merger is finalized.

The two executives will stress the benefits of the merger, including the heft needed to finance multibillion dollar power plants and other capital projects that are seen as increasingly risky on Wall Street. The companies have said that the merger will help hold down rate increases, and have promised to pass through $650 million in fuel and related savings over five years.

Last week the companies said they plan to eliminate 2,000 jobs over three years from a combined workforce that today stands at about 29,000. Many of those cuts will come in Raleigh, where Progress is dismantling its corporate headquarters in anticipation of the merged company’s home base being in Charlotte.