Great big, bad, greedy, cruel Questar Gas is gouging the poor. Questar Gas is asking for its third rate increase this year - which would bring the total rate hike for natural gas to 20 percent this year. Questar Gas tells us not to get upset, that with twiddling around, rates should be the same as in 1984. Questar Gas does not say that rates rose 337 percent just before 1984.

Many in the Salt Lake Shelter are homeless because they were forced to choose among paying huge bills for utilities, huge rents and eating, and Questar turned the gas off on some of them in the dead of winter. To add insult to injury, before the homeless can move back into housing, Questar Gas makes them pay a deposit, and all the back utility bills that they could never afford and that made them homeless in the first place and that will now have risen another crushing 20 percent. Who does Questar think it is anyway? It expresses hostility to the poor, as though it has a perfect right to pick on them. This is oppression.Two years ago, Salt Lake's Jedi Women, a homeless group, hung a sign of desperate complaint from the balcony of the Utah State Legislature. Speaker of the House, Melvin R. Brown, said their conduct was not proper and sent them away empty-handed. I hear that Questar lobbyists cross Brown's palm with silver and he treats them like princes and grants their wishes. I suppose Brown thinks that conduct is proper.

Huge utility rates combined with huge rents plus the destruction and gentrification of and failure to replace low-cost housing, in addition to the disastrous, 1984 removal by President Reagan of 87 percent of the housing subsidies from the poor (while Reagan later moved into a $3 million mansion gifted to him by pals), have created the flood of the homeless and locked them out of the American system.

Will Durant said the function of the rich was to oppress the poor. Did he have Questar Gas in mind?

Jane Layton Stromquist

Salt Lake City