TORONTO — Washington State regulators say they have denied Hydro One Ltd.’s proposed takeover of Avista Corp. citing political interference in the Ontario utility by the Doug Ford government.
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission says it found the deal, which valued Avista at $6.7-billion, to not be in the public interest after it became clear that the Ontario government was willing to interfere in the utility.
The U.S. regulator cited how Ford forced the retirement of the Hydro One CEO, which was followed by the resignation of the entire board, as evidence that the province was willing to put political interests above those of shareholders.
Hydro One, which is 47 per cent owned by the Ontario government, had assured in testimony on the Avista deal that the province was a passive investor that would not exert political pressure on the company.
The U.S. regulator says the promised benefits of the deal, including rate credits, are inadequate to compensate for risks Avista customers would face.
The Ford government hailed the leadership changes at Hydro One at the time as a “great day” for the province after heavily criticizing the company’s management on the campaign trail.