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Lawmakers call for bill credits for days customers lost power during Isaias

PSEG responds to damage caused by Tropical Storm

PSEG responds to damage caused by Tropical Storm Isaias on Pulaski Road in Huntington Station on Aug. 4. Credit: James Carbone

Two Long Island lawmakers are doubling down on their request for PSEG and LIPA to nix daily service charges for ratepayers who lost power during Tropical Storm Isaias, saying customers are already stretched to the limit.

Noting nearby utility Con Edison has already committed to such credits, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, in a note to a top PSEG Long Island official on Thursday, said credits should apply to any customer who lost power after the storm for 48 hours or longer. Newsday has reported that numerous customers have expressed surprise when opening August bills to see the 42-cents a day service charge was included in the bill. Others have expressed shock at outsize bills for the period they lost power, bills that PSEG said are accurate.

PSEG and the Long Island Power Authority to date have focused financial payback for customers impacted by the storm on a program that reimburses them up to $250 for food and $300 for medicine that was spoiled because of the outage, which left some 503,000 customers without power for at least eight days. One early estimate indicates around $4.5 million to $5 million in claims have been made for those reimbursements.

LIPA, in a statement, said it is "not actively pursuing bill credits at this time due to their nominal nature," totaling $3.36 for those who lost power eight days. LIPA may pursue other measures that could have a bigger financial impact for customers, including requesting PSEG cover the cost of Isaias-related investigations.

PSEG declined to comment.

The state Department of Public Service in a statement to Newsday last week indicated its "thorough investigation" of PSEG’s response and missteps related to the storm were ongoing, adding: "All enforcement options are on the table. In the past, settlements have included bill credits to ratepayers."

Rice called on PSEG to move forward with the bill credits, asserting in a statement that it was "wrong to deprive [customers] of this relief, especially during this pandemic when they are faced with economic uncertainty." She said PSEG customers "will not be made whole until they receive an appropriate credit on their monthly bill," in addition to reimbursement for spoiled food and medicine. That reimbursement program was paid through a $10 million fund that otherwise would have gone to PSEG for incentive pay. Some lawmakers criticized that sourcing, saying the funds should have come directly from PSEG shareholders. PSEG has said it effectively does.

Curran said PSEG "needs to step up and provide a monthly credit to customers who were adversely affected by Tropical Storm Isaias," according to her statement.

PSEG and LIPA have previously said customers are never charged for power they did not receive, so power supply and delivery charges already reflect zero energy costs for days they were without power.

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