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News Staff Reporter

No one came to a Monday evening hearing intended for people to comment on a seemingly uncontroversial proposal to give National Fuel customers small refunds and freeze delivery charges for two years.

“It’s surprising that there’s no one here,” said David Prestemon, administrative law judge with the Department of Public Service, which oversees the utility.

The hearing held at the Central Library’s near-deserted auditorium was intended to attract comment on the $7.5 million plan, developed with consumer advocates, such as the community housing organization PUSH Buffalo.

Prestemon adjourned after a half an hour. Another hearing earlier in the afternoon attracted one person, he said.

The “joint proposal,” which still must be approved by the Public Service Commission, would give about a $7.74 credit on residential bills, pay for weatherization upgrades for low-income customers and fund a furnace replacement program.

It was part of a compromise after an investigation last year found National Fuel’s earnings were too high, said Prestemon.

While the utility was not accused of overcharging customers, National Fuel earned more than the 9.1 percent target set by the commission.

“Really those funds were efficiencies savings,” said Karen Merkel, spokesperson, citing cost cutting as a reason for the high profits. “We have far fewer employees now.”

Two more hearings will be held today at the 3 and 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium at the Niagara Falls library at 1425 Main Street.

People can also comment by email or phone. For more information, call 888-ASK-PSCI or check AskPSC.com.

email: mkearns@buffnews.com