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Westfield Resident Questions Latest PSE&G Bill

Invoices may be estimates which do not reflect power outages.

Just as Westfielders were trying to resume some semblance of normalcy and put the letters P, S, E and G out of their minds, the utility's bills are showing up in mailboxes all over town and they may not take into account those long, cold days and dark, frigid nights in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Despite the fact that many Westfield residents were without power for as long as 14 days, not including Monday's brief interruption in service, the bills may not reflect the recent outages.

When Claire Tafelski and her mother, both Westfield residents, received their PSE&G bills, both were higher than the previous month's and both were marked as estimates. 

"My mother, who lives alone in a small house, received an invoice that was almost twice the amount of the previous month," Tafelski explained. "However, my mother was out of power from Oct. 29 through Nov. 12 and I was out of power for about six days, so I find it difficult to believe that these estimates take into account the loss of power experienced by many customers."

Tafelski noted that assuming she and her mother aren't alone in receiving these estimates, the utility stands to benefit in a big way.

"On a larger scale, about 1.7 million customers were out of power for some duration, and as of Nov. 3, five to six days after the storm, about 600,000 were still out of power," she stated. "I also believe that this was the coldest part of the month when usage would have been highest.

"Assuming that at least some of their invoices are similarly overstated, PSEG is effectively getting an interest-free loan for millions of dollars from its customers, many of whom are extremely dissatisfied by their service and/or experiencing economic hardships as a result of the storm. I want to be clear that I understand that their employees were working diligently to restore power, and I sincerely respect and appreciate their efforts. However, the manner in which PSEG has handled the situation has been well below the bar. That said, PSE&G has advised that customers can submit an actual meter reading and they will correct the invoice."

Utility Communications Consultant for PSE&G Deann Muzikar explained that some customers may receive bills that are based on actual meter readings though they may be late due to a delay in bill processing and mail delivery. Many other customers will receive estimated bills, as most meter readers have been performing storm-related duties, she added.

"System estimates are based on historical usage patterns and don’t reflect outages experienced as a result of Sandy," she stated. "The next time our meter readers are able to get an actual reading, the bill will be adjusted to reflect actual usage."

Tafelski said as she'd expected, her meter reflected half the usage estimated in her invoice. After contacting @PSEGdelivers on Twitter, Tafelski was told customers could call in to have their bills adjusted.

"I called PSEG and was told only a PSEG meter reader could submit a reading," she explained. "However, I insisted that I was told that I could call and report my actual reading and was transferred to someone else who made the adjustment. However, after the adjustment was made, I was informed that a credit would be reflected on my next invoice, which is essentially the equivalent to doing nothing and waiting for the next actual reading to occur in December. I responded by indicating that a PSEG representative previously informed me that I could receive an updated invoice for this month. She then revised my invoice for this month. It took about 15 minutes, but at the end of the day they corrected the issue."

Muzikar said customers can advise PSE&G of their readings by calling 800-436-7734.

Ryan P. November 14, 2012 at 10:49 AM
PSE&G is actually charging customers for the months of October and November?! That is the real headline.
anonymous November 14, 2012 at 12:23 PM
I dont believe this last bill was for the dates of the outage. It was for prior to the outage. I will wait for the next bill and see how low it hopefully is.
Keith November 14, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Can I send them a bill for the electrician and generator I needed to hire ??
Westfielder November 14, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Here they all come, the habitual complainers. Residents in NY, NJ and CT have had their homes and worldly possession destroyed, some have died, yet the inconvenienced elite in Westfield are once again complaining about their trivial issues.
Jeff B November 14, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Some of us are senior citizens watching their pennies or families who were already suffering in this economy. Given that many had to spend extra money in this storm, for PSE&G not to adjust bills for estimated periods of outage is inappropriate. It is an interest-free loan to them. However, I do agree that it is a small issue, as the amount we are talking about here may be at most about $50 worth of reduced electricity usage. (The value of the one month loan is trivial.)
Doogie Howser November 14, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Here, here - you nailed it. People are whining about the float on an extra $50-100 which they will get back the following month when their meter is read? If you are that concerned about it, just short pay your bill for the month. I can't believe somebody wasted 15 minutes of time on the issue. Keith - yes - it's PSE&G's fault that thousands of trees on private and government-owned property crashed down on the power lines. Maybe we should advocate clear-cutting all of Westfield so that our prescious power is never again threatened by trees? Want buried power lines? I'm sure you will be the first to volunteer to allow them to dig a trench right across your lawn to bury the lines.
Linda November 14, 2012 at 03:33 PM
I would happily have my power lines buried. It seems that is the only way to a avoid these outages.
Doogie Howser November 14, 2012 at 03:49 PM
If PSE&G told you that the investment required to bury power lines in an old town like Westfield would permanently increase your power bill by 20% - would you still feel that way? Is an occasional outage when an epic storm like Sandy hits so hard on you that you'd prefer to increase everybody's power bills on a permanent basis so that you aren't inconvenienced for a week or two? If you want to ensure that you have power, why don't you install a whole house generator. Why should everybody pay more because you don't like the inconvenience of an occasional power outage. Perhaps, our neighbors should take care of their old trees on their property so that when the next storm hits, half of our power poles aren't knocked over?
Claire Tafelski November 14, 2012 at 04:06 PM
The overarching principle here is not about the amount of the invoice, which I agree is marginal for most Westfield residents on an individual level. Rather, it is about the manner in which these issues are being addressed by PSE&G. I would also note that PSE&G could have based their estimate on the previous months usage, or reduced it by the average duration of outage experienced by customers in the affected area.
South Westfielder November 14, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Good question, however many, if not most of the trees that fell onto lines were on that city-owned strip between the sidewalk and the curb. Those are town trees. God forbid our DPW would trim them.
ddougyy November 14, 2012 at 04:15 PM
People should realize that PSE&G somehow needs to pay for this disastor. Huge amounts of overtime, not to mention the cost of new equipment (polls, transformers, etx) to replace what was damaged, and gasoline (you think those trucks are fuel efficient?). If you were a linesman, I'm pretty sure you would want overtime pay for your 16 hour days. That money has to come from someplace.
Pete November 14, 2012 at 06:58 PM
PSE&G have insurance. They also have profits that can afford to take a short-term hit.
KD November 14, 2012 at 07:47 PM
I am certain PSE & G willing be following up with FEMA for their own Disaster Assistance. I am more concerned about the rumor that Volunteers from other states were turned away because they were non union.
ddougyy November 14, 2012 at 07:49 PM
I would be concerned too, however, it's been widely publicized that the rumor is not true.
Westfielder November 14, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Believe it! The unions are in it only for themselves.
ddougyy November 14, 2012 at 08:47 PM
@Westfielder: Why should I believe it when I have seen multiple people in authority deny it and no real evidence to suggest it happened?
KD November 14, 2012 at 10:32 PM
I heard it from people in Virginia who were talking to the crews who were turned around and told to go home.
Westfielder cm November 14, 2012 at 10:45 PM
I'm with Westfielder! Ugh! The complaining is exhausting... I
Doogie Howser November 14, 2012 at 11:26 PM
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57544237/ala-utilities-our-crews-not-turned-away-from-n.j/
ddougyy November 14, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Me too!
ddougyy November 14, 2012 at 11:47 PM
@KD I heard from a linesman in my neighborhood that was from Alabama and was not a union worker, who said he was never turned away. Actually, the crew I spoke to said they were being taking care of well.
KD November 15, 2012 at 12:39 AM
Good to know about PSE & G, maybe it was LIPA turning them away : )

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