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The Justice Department on Wednesday gave antitrust clearance to the merger of Exelon Corp. and Constellation Energy Group Inc. but said the companies must divest three electricity-generating plants in Maryland in order to proceed with the deal. The department said the transaction as originally proposed would have lessened competition for wholesale electricity and increased prices for consumers in the Mid-Atlantic region. The companies agreed to sell the plants as part of a proposed settlement that was filed in a Washington federal court.

The stock-for-stock transaction, announced in April, has been valued at nearly $8 billion.

The companies still need the approval of the Maryland and New York public-service commissions, as well as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Constellation Chairman and Chief Executive Mayo Shattuck and Exelon President and Chief Operating Officer Christopher Crane will proceed with the merger proposal in 2012. (WSJ, 12/22/2011)