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National Fuel customers should get full repayment

In the Dec. 7 News, we were informed of a “settlement” reached by National Fuel Gas and the State Public Service Commission. It was, ostensibly, due to excessive profits. A total of $10.2 million is being passed out: $1.77 million to commercial customers; $3.72 million to residential ones; $1.75 million to fund weatherization programs; $250,000 to fund a furnace replacement program for HEAP recipients; and $2.7 million to the employees’ pension fund.

If there were excessive profits, all of the money should be refunded to the ratepayers, not some portion of it. The ratepayers are getting back only 44 cents on every dollar they overpaid. The pension fund should have been funded before National Fuel showed a dime of profit. Why is it getting a penny of this? While one may believe that weatherization is a good thing, this is the wrong way to fund it.

The PSC has no right to impose a tax capriciously on the ratepayers. The politicians and others will go around saying what a wonderful thing they did by getting these monies to fund the weatherization. It isn’t their money, though. Either the politicians should go through the legislative process and vote an appropriations bill or dig into their own jeans to fund these programs.

There is a serious moral hazard issue here. What is to prevent future “excessive” profits from being recaptured by this means to fund pet programs? Answer: nothing. New York already has the most dysfunctional state government in the country, and this will just tarnish our reputation further. What business would consider locating here if it realized that the state could increase its tax burden via this back-door method?

If the politicians really want to lower energy prices, they should allow fracking. Nothing will do more to put purchasing power into the hands of consumers. Of course, this is politically incorrect, so the poor will continue to suffer while the elite get to preen.

Jim Mulcahy

Grand Island