The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission quietly issued an order Wednesday approving the $4.3 billion acquisition of El Paso Electric Co. by JPMorgan’s Infrastructure Investment Fund.
In doing so, the commission put aside concerns raised in the U.S. Senate and by Public Citizen, the consumer advocacy group started by Ralph Nader, about potential conflicts with customers of the company, known as IIF.
The Texas Public Utility Commission, which oversees the handful of regulated utilities like El Paso Electric that still operate as monopolies in Texas, approved the acquisition in January.
City Council approved it in February.
But former El Paso Mayor Larry Francis, who served two terms in the 1990s and founded Francis Communications, vehemently opposed the acquisition, saying it would be bad for customers and the city because of IIF’s profit demands.
“The impact on the ratepayer is enormous,” Francis said. “Based on what we know today, either they’re going to have to raise rates, or cut costs.”
He said the $4.3 billion IIF will pay for El Paso Electric is too high and proposed that the city of El Paso move to acquire the utility instead.
El Paso’s current mayor, Dee Margo, said that would have been a bad idea.
“We have enough to say grace over, figuring out how to run public safety and streets without taking on the utility,” he said last July.
IIF has committed to keeping El Paso Electric’s headquarters in El Paso, to maintaining its workforce, providing $21 million in credits over three years to customers and continuing the company’s yearly $1.2 million contribution to charities.
El Paso Electric serves about 430,000 customers in El Paso, and some rural areas of West Texas, and in southern New Mexico, mostly in the Las Cruces area.
Hours after the FERC order became public Thursday, El Paso Electric issued a brief statement that read:
“We are pleased to have received the FERC approval, which further confirms the significant value the transaction will provide to our customers, employees and communities.
“This transaction will help support our vision for workforce retention and development while providing bill credits to all customers, supporting $1.2 million in philanthropic giving in our community, and creating a regional economic sustainability development fund.”
Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at email@example.com or call (915) 630-6622.