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Brown Sends 20,000 Signatures to PSC in Opposition to National Fuel Rate Hike

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – State Senator Byron Brown says he's collected petitions with more than 20,000 signatures from area residents who are opposed to a rate hike requested by National Fuel Gas. Following a news conference at the Mahoney Office Building Tuesday, Brown mailed the petitions to the State Public Service Commission in Albany.

National Fuel is seeking a 5.6 percent rate increase, citing rising operating costs. But Brown says the petitions send a message that now is not the time to raise rates.

"We're sending a message, loud and clear, that people don't want to see their natural gas prices increased," Brown said. "We think the economy here in Western New York is too weak right now for such an increase."

Brown said he's been told by state regulators that the large number of signatures will be "persuasive" as they consider National Fuel's request. He asked the PSC to notify him of the dates and times of any public hearings on the rate hike proposal.

National Fuel spokeswoman Julie Coppola Cox said everyone is concerned about higher energy costs. She said National Fuel has no control over the cost of the natural gas itself. Coppola Cox said this rate hike request is the utility's first one in nine years.