PITTSBURGH - A federal judge has rejected a Federal Trade Commission effort to block a deal by Equitable Resources Inc. to purchase Dominion Peoples and become the state's largest natural-gas utility.
U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab yesterday granted Equitable's motion to dismiss a request for an injunction and temporary restraining order filed by the FTC in March, ruling that a state panel's approval of the intrastate deal is immune from federal oversight.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission voted 4-0 in April to approve the acquisition, which includes a pledge by Pittsburgh-based Equitable not to request a base-rate increase in Pennsylvania before 2009.
The FTC said the deal would result in a monopoly in the Pittsburgh area that "may substantially lessen competition in the markets for local distribution of natural gas" to western-Pennsylvania customers.
Schwab said the action sought by the FTC would harm the PUC's ability to regulate such transactions.