Public Utility Commission approves sale of Equitable Gas to Peoples Natural Gas

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The Public Utility Commission approved the sale of Equitable Gas to Peoples Natural Gas Thursday, clearing another hurdle in the $720 million deal that would establish a monopoly gas utility in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The transaction still needs the approval of the West Virginia Public Service Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

As part of its decision, the Pennsylvania commission blessed a settlement that the companies reached with consumer advocates and the environmental advocacy group Penn Future. Conditions included Peoples' commitment to stay in Pittsburgh for at least 10 years, to promote the retail gas market, and to design efficiency and conservation programs for its customers.

The acquisition will turn Downtown-based EQT Corp. into a production and midstream company, liberating it from its regulated utility segment. As part of the deal, EQT will receive from Peoples about 200 miles of transmission pipelines and four storage pools. It also will supply much of the gas that will flow into Peoples' distribution system.

North Shore-based Peoples and EQT have said the deal will save between $10 million and $20 million in annual expenses. Once the transaction is final, Peoples plans to bring human resources, financial, legal and other administration functions under one roof.

Equitable Gas serves about 260,000 customers, mostly in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.

Anya Litvak: or 412-263-1455.

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