National Fuel Gas Co.'s customers are pretty satisfied with the company's utility business, although the Amherst company's ranking slipped last year, according to a new survey ranking natural gas utilities by J.D. Power and Associates.

National Fuel's customer satisfaction score is slightly better than the average among large Eastern gas utilities, where overall satisfaction ratings are significantly lower than they are from consumers of natural gas utilities in other parts of the country. National Fuel's satisfaction score, while it ranks sixth among the 10 big eastern gas utilities, is 3 percent lower than the overall national average.

National Fuel had ranked second among big eastern utilities during the previous two years, trailing New Jersey Natural Gas.

"Customer service is a top priority," said Anna Marie Cellino, the president of National Fuel's utility business. "It's good to know that our customers continue to say we're doing the right things."

Across the country, satisfaction with natural gas utilities improved by 1 percent - an increase that J.D. Power officials said was mostly due to the decline in natural gas commodity prices, which lowered monthly bills by an average of about 10 percent.

National Fuel's customer satisfaction score of 617 was a point better than the Eastern regional average, but below the national average of 634.

New York State Electric & Gas Corp.'s gas utility business, which provides gas service to portions of Niagara and Orleans counties as well as parts of the Southern Tier, scored a point lower than National Fuel, at 616, but its ranking was below average for its mid-sized eastern utility grouping.

The other major upstate natural gas utility, National Grid, ranked as the fourth-lowest among big eastern U.S. utilities for the second straight year, with a score of 614, two points below the segment's average. National Grid does not provide gas utility service in Western New York.

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