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LOCAL NEWS BRIEFS

Higgins mounts attack on NYSEG rate hike bid

Branding a bid by New York State Electric & Gas for rate increases as "unjustified and outrageous," Rep. Brian Higgins on Saturday urged the state Public Service Commission to reject the utility's request.

Higgins, D-Buffalo, sent a letter urging the PSC to deny NYSEG's proposal to increase rates for electricity and gas delivery by 18.6 percent and 17.4 percent, respectively.

"The audacity of NYSEG to hike rates to struggling consumers while their average energy transmission costs last year decreased is offensive and egregious," Higgins wrote. "The increase is even more incredible when you consider the significant new resources made available to utilities this year through the recovery act."

Higgins also pointed to declining average energy transmission costs for utilities over the last year.

The utility said the increases could boost typical residential electrical and gas bills by as much as $12 and $25 a month, respectively. NYSEG added that the increased revenue is needed to maintain and upgrade delivery networks.

The utility serves 175,000 customers in rural and suburban areas of Western New York.

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Closings, reduced hours in libraries set for Wednesday

Twenty-four branches in the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library system will be closed Wednesday to allow library staffers to attend a training and development day.

Some locations that will remain open will have adjusted hours.

In Amherst, Audubon will be open from 5 to 9 p.m., and Clearfield, 5 to 9 p.m.; Kenmore, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Lackawanna, 1 to 9 p.m.; Lancaster, 5 to 9 p.m.; Newstead, 1 to 8 p.m.; North Collins, 3 to 8 p.m.; Orchard Park, 5 to 9 p.m.; and Reinstein Memorial Library in Cheektowaga, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Volunteers hit beaches for annual cleanup

Beach sunsets are all the more spectacular thanks to Saturday's cleanup efforts of thousands of volunteers who scoured beaches along lakes Erie and Ontario.

They were motivated by the 24th annual Great Lakes Beach Sweep, which enlisted 8,400 volunteers statewide for a couple of hours of pick-up and weigh-in.

Sharen Trembath, coordinator of the Eric County leg of the effort, said 2,000 volunteers -- from infants to senior citizens -- collected loads of debris that accumulated on beaches from the late-August storm that flooded communities in southern Erie and northern Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties. There were boat parts, construction remains and many tires used as dock bumpers for boats.
Among the more unusual finds -- much to the glee of entrepreneurial youngsters volunteering -- were 78 golf balls culled from Woodlawn Beach.

In Niagara County, volunteers focused on cleaning up Fort Niagara State Park and the Four Mile Creek area in Youngstown.

"It was a great day and people were in a great mood," Trembath said of the gathering, which enlisted volunteers from 60 schools, as far away as Gannon University in Erie, Pa.

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