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Maryland approves nuclear deal

calvertcliffs.jpgMaryland regulators have offered conditional approval to let Constellation Energy Group join with French energy giant, EDF, in a $4.5 billion-dollar deal the two companies have argued is critical to building the nation's first new nuclear reactor in nearly 30 years.

The state's Public Service Commission ruled that with several conditions - including rebates of roughly $100 for each Baltimore Gas and Electric ratepayer - the merger amounts to a good deal for Maryland residents.

Constellation and EDF have one week to agree to the state's conditions.

Making the approval contingent on rebates and other measures amounts to a minor victory for Gov. Martin O'Malley -- one that he will almost surely incorporate into stump speeches as he campaigns for re-election next year.

O'Malley had sought much broader concessions from Constellation in closed-door negotiations that he acknowledged last week had broken down.

Pledges to provide long-term rate relief to BG&E customers, which Constellation owns, have dogged O'Malley ever since he took office. BGE serves 1.1 million people in central Maryland, including small parts of Prince George's and Montgomery counties. The company's new nuclear reactor would be its third at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Lusby. Under Friday's merger deal, the two companies are not required to build the reactor, but they've said they intend to.

The governor's battle with Constellation had grown increasingly bitter leading up to Friday's decision. In June, he accused Constellation of "standing for one thing and one thing only: the profit motive."

On Monday, he defended his administration's continued pressure to win concessions saying "I don't work for the country club set that pats each other on the back and tells them what a great job they do when they stick it to consumers with 70 percent rate increases."

After the PSC issued its ruling, O'Malley issued a statement with a dramatically more
conciliatory tone:

"Although this has been a contentious proceeding at times, the process and the law worked, and ratepayers and BGE are better off because of it," O'Malley said. "I look forward to working with Constellation and EDF and the Building Trades in the months and years ahead."

O'Malley has scheduled a news conference for 4 p.m.

By Aaron C. Davis  |  October 30, 2009; 2:40 PM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis  
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