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PUC votes for Columbia Gas to refund about $3.4 million to customer base

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The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission voted Thursday for Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania Inc. to refund nearly $3.4 million to residential and nonresidential customers after the company had wanted to put most of the money into its Hardship Fund.

Columbia Gas is getting the refund money from Columbia Gas Transmission LLC because of a settlement approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a news release stated.

The company will refund the money through its purchased gas cost rates.

The FERC settlement is part of a rate request process by Columbia Gas Transmission, which supplies Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, company spokesman Russell Bedell said.

"In this case, we are the customer who is getting a refund from Columbia Gas Transmission," he said.

The company had wanted to put a residential refund portion of about $2.5 million in the fund and refund nearly $860,000 to nonresidential customers, the release stated.

The commission denied the first part, instead directing the money to residential customer refunds, but approved the second, according to the release.

The Hardship Program helps low-income customers cover their bills to Columbia Gas and is funded with donations customers make as well as company match, Bedell said.

"Either way, customers would get the refund," he said of the PUC's decision.

For its part, the commission wanted the money to go to all customers because it was all customers who paid the money in the first place, PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said.

Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania serves about 415,000 natural-gas customers in 26 counties in Pennsylvania, according to the release.

Shares of its parent company, Indiana-based NiSource Inc., are traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol NI.

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