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State Sen. Byron W. Brown, D-Buffalo, has sent a petition with 20,000 signatures to the Public Service Commission urging that it deny a 5.6 percent rate increase requested by National Fuel Gas.

Brown said he also sent a copy of the petition to Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth Liebschutz of the Office of Hearings & Alternative Dispute Resolutions. He said she will decide whether to ask National Fuel to adjust its request or to send the request on to the Public Service Commission for public hearings.

"Many in our community, including seniors, small businesses and working families already experience difficulty in paying their fuel bills," Brown said.

The utility has cited rising operating costs, including sharply higher pension and employee benefit expenses.

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