Panhandling protest against high electric bills

A National Grid customer in Syracuse has found an unusual way of protesting his high electric bill. Nick Papatonis is panhandling, asking people in the University section for "donations" to help him pay his electric bill.

Papatonis, who is disabled and on a fixed income, says the electric bill for his efficiency apartment last month was $253.00 or about $100.00 more than his average bill.

Papatonis is holding a sign which cites figures from a news release from Senator Chuck Schumer who is calling upon the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the reasons behind the huge jump in electric bills this winter. Schumer's office claims National Grid bills have increased 60-75% which is much higher than other utilities in New York State.

National Grid says it is simply passing along the higher wholesale costs of electrical generation brought on by the unusually cold winter and increased demand for natural gas.

Papatonis supports Schumer's call for an FTC investigation because he feels there is evidence of price gouging. "I'm here educating people that National Grid is taking advantage of their customers." Papatonis told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon Tuesday.

Besides asking for donations to help him pay his electric bill, Papatonis hopes his panhandling protest will raise concern and put pressure on officials to investigate the situation.