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PSC TO VOTE ON REFUND DISPUTE

The Florida Public Service Commission is scheduled to vote Wednesday to resolve a dispute about the size of a rate refund that Progress Energy Florida Inc. paid its customers in March.

The facts surrounding the dispute seem straightforward: The St. Petersburg utility refunded $5-million. The Office of Public Counsel, the state's consumer advocate on utility issues before the PSC, argues the refund should have been $23-million.

The case is unlikely to come to a tidy ending. Progress and the PSC have been bruised by suspicions of improper communications between the company and two commissioners, which drew the attention of consumer groups and the state attorney general's office.

In addition, the PSC imposed restrictions on the scope of the public counsel's investigation of the matter, including who could be questioned and the time period to be examined. That, the public counsel's office said, complicated its efforts to determine what really went on. So doubts are likely to linger after the vote.

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