West Virginians rarely oppose rate hikes.

Not this time around with the economy in a major slump and family budgets in crisis.

Thousands of state citizens have contacted the Public Service Commission over proposed natural gas hikes, some as high as 46 percent.

"It seems like the rich get richer and the poor get poorer ... I thought the PSC was there to help regulate fair prices for everyone," Doris Harris of Culloden wrote in a handwritten letter concerning Mountaineer Gas' proposed hike.

God gave us this gas so we may stay warm, not for people to get filthy rich ... enough is enough," wrote Joe Harris of Culloden.

Melissa Marland, the PSC's administrative law judge, recommended that 13 of the state's gas companies receive rate increases.

The state's seven largest gas companies have received recommended rate increases ranging from 8.6 percent to 38 percent.

As the PSC weighs a final decision, consumers are being urged to send a letter opposing the raise, or attend a public hearing.

Apparently phone calls and e-mails don't work.

No public hearings have been scheduled>

Nearly 3,000 people have either sent a letter or signed a petition concerning Mountaineer's request.

The PSC Consumer Advocate says one of the most difficult things to explain to customers who are protesting the escalating cost of gas is why, when headlines trumpet the falling price of natural gas, their bills keep going up.

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