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State Sen. Timothy Kennedy announced Saturday he is pushing new legislation to establish a utility consumer advocate to represent people during rate-setting and regulatory proceedings.

Kennedy, D-Buffalo, is co-sponsoring a bill that he believes will help keep utility rates down, once someone is appointed to look out for the interests of residential customers and small businesses. The change is needed, he said, because New Yorkers pay some of the highest electric rates in the country.

The legislator, pointing to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, noted residential customers paid 56 percent more than the national average in December. And, so far this year, bills have risen more, he added,

“After this unbearably cold winter made matters even worse, it has become urgent for our state to take action,” he said.