The Legislative Committee at Albany, continue the taking of testimony in regard to alleged abuses on the part of the gas companies. Probably a government does not exist on the face of the earth so ready to grant franchises without guarantees as that of the Empire State. Mr. Valentine T. Hall, Secretary of the Brooklyn Gas Light Company, testified before the committee that the company is acting under special charter, dated 1826, which has been several times amended. " It contains no regulations as to price sf gas, or quality we must furnish, we may charge anything we please." Having thus obtained the privilege to lay their mains, and having got thoroughly under weigh; having at the outset a capital of $250,000, which has increased so that it could not in the opinion of Mr. Hall, be replaced for less than $4,000,000, with market price of stock 240 per cent when " last any was offered for sale," this unrestricted monopoly has everything in its own hands. What chance would a new company have in the attempt to compete with it ? The franchise possessed by the Brooklyn Gas Light Company is so valuable that they could well afford to give away gas for two years to swamp an opposing corporation. " Verily to him that hath, shall be given, and from him that hath not shall be taken away that which he hath:" and when this impoverished company asks forfurthergrants from the generous New Tork Legislature, it will doubtless get what it wants. We have little faith that the present investigation will result in the revocation or limitation of the charter of any gas company. Such an expectation is not justified by any precedent.
This article was originally published with the title "Gas Monopolies" in Scientific American 20, 13, 202 (March 1869)