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PSC gives industry early X-mas gift 

Five million dollars. That's the estimated windfall the Public Service Commission gave industrial gas users three weeks ago. When the 2002 General Assembly revamped the state's natural gas deregulation law, lawmakers included a provision that intended to more evenly split the expenses for distributing natural gas. Currently residential consumers pay for a lopsided amount of the gas delivery system.

The proposal to more evenly dump those distribution costs onto the industrials led to a lobbying blitzkrieg. But lawmakers stood their ground and it looked like consumers finally were protected.

That is, until commissioners David Burgess, Stan Wise and Lauren "Bubba" McDonald voted on Oct. 30 to waive the industrial charges and utterly ignore the General Assembly's attempt to shift gas costs from consumers to big business.

Close to a month after the gouging, top PSC staffers who've studied the proposal now say that industrial users escaped paying $5 million -- and that's the most conservative number they've come up with.

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