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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — Progress Energy and Duke Energy have agreed not to ask customers to pay millions of dollars in severance costs of employees who could be laid off as part of their merger.

The utilities’ decision not to pass along up to $230 million in costs was part of updated paperwork filed Tuesday with the North Carolina Utilities Commission. The companies promised to reduce retail rates by $70 million and swallow any costs for severance pay.

The deal would make the combined company the nation’s largest utility. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has twice rejected the merger on grounds that it would create a monopoly that could manipulate regional wholesale electricity prices.

The combined company would serve 7 million customers in the Carolinas, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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