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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — Duke Energy and Progress Energy are asking North Carolina regulators to skip consideration of the economy in deciding whether to approve the companies’ merger into the country’s largest electric utility.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Friday the companies want the North Carolina Utilities Commission to refuse to hear arguments by critics that this is a bad time in the nation’s economy to allow a merger that will lead to big layoffs.

Environmental groups and other nonprofits want to make their case at merger hearings beginning Tuesday. They say Charlotte-based Duke and Raleigh-based Progress haven’t proposed a way to limit the economic damage the state will suffer after the companies eliminate hundreds of jobs.

State law requires the benefits of the merger to outweigh its costs and risks.

Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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