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Duke Energy approved for natural gas merger

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina regulators are allowing Duke Energy to expand from being the country's largest electricity company to selling natural gas.

Duke Energy Corp. said in a statement Thursday that the North Carolina Utilities Commission has allowed its acquisition of Piedmont Natural Gas Co. The regulatory approval is the last needed for the deal. The transaction is expected to close Monday.

Duke Energy is spending nearly $5 billion in cash for Piedmont to control natural gas costs for its own power plants. Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good has said the company also is positioning for a national expansion in future gas demand.

Both companies are based in Charlotte, North Carolina. They were already working together to build a 550-mile-long pipeline to deliver natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia and into North Carolina.

Puerto Rico readies for control board takeover

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico's governor turned over the reins of his government's finances to a federal control board and outlined what he considers priorities during a televised address Thursday to prepare the U.S. territory for a historic change.

Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said his administration had tried everything to ameliorate a decade-long economic crisis before accepting that the creation of a federal control board was necessary.

"We should all be aware of the repercussions of this process that starts now," he said. "Like many of you, I didn't agree either with the excessive power granted to the board, and with some of the people named to it. But the truth is we had no alternative."

Established by U.S. legislation enacted in June, the seven-member board is scheduled to have its first meeting Friday in New York. It is expected to choose its president as well as outline the first steps it will take to help restructure a portion of a nearly $70 billion public debt that Garcia has said is unpayable.

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