Equitable Resources ( EQT) signed a definitive agreement to acquire two natural gas utilities from Dominion Resources ( D) for $970 million. Equitable Resources will buy Domnion Peoples, a Pittsbugh-based utility, and Dominion Hope, based in West Virginia. The cash transaction is expected to close by the first quarter of 2007. Pittsburgh-based Equitable Resources said the assets will increase its number of customers by 173%, its total storage capacity by 60%, its gathered volume by 40% and its miles of transmission by 42%. Richmond, Va.-based Dominion said proceeds from the sale will be used for general corporate purposes, including debt reduction. Dominion shares recently changed hands at $74.23, down 44 cents. Equitable Resources shares rose 93 cents, or 2.6%, to $37.24.