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National Fuel - heartless scoundrels!
10-19-2010, 07:39 AM
Post: #1
National Fuel - heartless scoundrels!
Just hours before a record-setting snowstorm hit last November, a serviceman from National Fuel Gas Co. showed up at Theresa Camp's Lackawanna home to shut off her gas.

The mother of four called the utility and pleaded for more time to come up with $300 to keep the heat on. But her time was up, blizzard or no blizzard.

"The heat was turned off for about four days," Camp said. "We all slept on the floor together, with only an electric heater plugged in. That's how we spent the days before Thanksgiving."

Like the Camps, thousands of Western New Yorkers have had to face days without home heating.

National Fuel shuts off service to its delinquent customers at twice the rate as the region's other natural gas provider, New York State Electric & Gas Corp. National Fuel is 76 percent more likely to do so than the three other major utilities in upstate New York as a group, a Buffalo News analysis shows.

The Buffalo-based utility stopped service for more customers in the first eight months of this year - 28,756 - than it did for all of 2000 - 27,400.

That increase, National Fuel said, reflects Western New York's weak economy and last winter's record-high gas prices.

"We've administered a fair and consistent collections policy," said Julie Coppola Cox, a National Fuel spokeswoman. "It was a very difficult winter for our customers. Customer bills were nearly doubled during the peak of the winter heating season."

National Fuel already is under scrutiny by the state Public Service Commission, which said last month that the utility appears to have "directly contributed" to the death of a 58-year-old Buffalo woman when it refused her repeated pleas to turn on her gas. Velma Fordham was found frozen to death in her unheated Buffalo apartment last February.

The commission wants National Fuel to review its records of the last six years and contact and pay penalties to customers improperly denied service under certain conditions. The commission has asked the utility to explain why it should not make payments to those people.

Nobody knows how many there may be.

So far this year, National Fuel has shut off service to 6.3 percent of its residential customers who fell behind in paying their bills.

The other major upstate utilities, which provide electricity as well as natural gas, have posted lower shut-off rates this year:

New York State Electric & Gas, which provides gas service to parts of Niagara, Orleans and Cattaraugus counties, has about a 2.8 percent shut-off rate.

Rochester Gas & Electric has shut off 2.9 percent of its customers for being delinquent.

Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. has a 3.4 percent rate.


The Public Service Commission, which regulates electric and gas utilities, does not find National Fuel's shut-off rates troubling. This should not be surprising as the Public Service Commission in recent years is thought to side on the companies and utilities best interest. Is there payola involved? Well, one can certainly guess that is the case - as we all know, in NY anything goes as long as you pay the "politicians".
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