An advocacy group urged the N.C. Utilities Commission on Monday to reopen hearings into Duke Energy s proposed merger with Progress Energy.

The N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, an anti-nuclear group in Durham, argues that circumstances have changed since the commission s hearings last September. New hearings, if granted, would likely derail the utilities plan of closing the $26 billion merger by July 1.

WARN cites new merger conditions imposed by federal authorities, confidential settlement agreements with customer groups filed in May and rising costs of the nuclear power plants the combined utility might build.

It says that due to the sheer size, complexity and sweeping, long-term ramifications of this arrangement, the commission must ensure a full and careful examination of all these issues, not compress its review to accommodate the utilities much-publicized pressure that their deal needs to be closed by any certain date.

The utilities commission has set Monday as the deadline for formal parties to the merger proceeding to file comments. The utilities and the Public Staff, which represents consumer interests, have until Tuesday to file rebuttals.

The N.C. Sustainable Energy Association, another party to the proceedings, said the commission should analyze the merger s effects on electric rates and on diversifying energy sources with renewable energy.

The association said the commission should make Duke and Progress set up funds to help low-income customers pay for energy- efficiency measures; offer financing to customers; and set up a pilot program to let renewable-energy generators sell directly to consumers.

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