JOPLIN, Mo. — A Joplin-based utility has announced an agreement with Kansas regulators that could remove a final hurdle to the utility’s planned $2.4 billion merger with a Canadian company.

Empire District Electric Co. announced last week that it had reached an agreement with the staff of the Kansas Corporation Commission. The KCC, however, still has to formally rule on Empire Electric’s proposed merger with Oakville, Ontario-based Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp., The Joplin Globe reported ( ).

Julie Maus, director of corporate communications for Empire, said Friday that the deal is on schedule for its projected closing in early 2017.

The merger has been approved by regulators in the three other states where Empire operates — Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Empire serves about 215,000 customers in the four states.

As a condition of the merger, Algonquin has agreed to pay a 21 percent premium on Empire’s stock but has said it will not pass those costs along to ratepayers.

As part of the agreement filed in Kansas, Empire also will withdraw its current rate case there if the merger is approved and will not file for a full rate increase in Kansas until May 2018, with those rates not taking effect until Jan. 1, 2019.

Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe,