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Wisconsin Energy's acquisition of WPS "Business as usual" for customers


UNDATED (WSAU) -- The multi-billion dollar utility merger announced Monday should mean business as usual for the customers of Wisconsin Public Service. That’s according to spokesperson Lisa Prunty.  “For right now, there will be no changes until the actual sale is completed, which is at the end of the summer of 2015, so throughout the next year, we will be working on what changes and what the brand is going to look like, and what the bill will be looking like. So at this point though, nothing will change. It’s business as usual for Wisconsin Public Service.”

Prunty says the combined company will be able to use their combined staff and resources to respond during service emergencies.  “We have to go through a process when we need to share crews with Wisconsin Electric and Wisconsin Public Service. At this point, we’ll be able to move crews seamlessly throughout the service territory, so when we do experience large outages, which obviously we don’t like to, but we’ll have the backing of those extra crews.”

Some watchdog groups are critical of the planned merger, claiming the new company will have a monopoly in the eastern side of the state. The Citizens Utility Board is also watching the planned purchase very closely. Prunty believes the merger is good news for customers.  “This is going to be a good thing. It’s two large companies merging, and we’ll be able to provide increased reliability for our customers and the best thing is, they’re really not going to see any differences.”

Prunty expects no changes to staffing, since the two utilities will continue to be operated as separate companies. The exception is the President and Board of Directors for Wisconsin Public Service will be gone.  “WEC will be filling those positions, and so our leadership will be moving on.”

Wisconsin Energy unsuccessfully tried to acquire Minnesota based Northern States Power in the 90’s before safeguards were in place to ensure equal access to electricity. With little growth in electric customers, WE Energies saw value in Wisconsin Public Service’s aggressive natural gas expansion and other infrastructure investments.

WE Energies already has one central Wisconsin asset. They teamed up a year ago with Domtar’s Rothschild paper mill to create a 50 megawatt power plant that burns sawdust and wood waste from the mill.

The combined company will be led by We Energies Chairman, President, and CEO Gale Klappa, who grew up in Wisconsin Rapids and achieved a degree in communications from UW-Milwaukee in 1972.