Apparently there are many more billing atrocities than LIPA had acknowledged previously. The authority needs to be proactive and get to the bottom of this rather than minimize its extent and impact in the press
Retirees accuse LIPA, Nat’l Grid in overcharge
July 19, 2011 8:05 AM By MARK HARRINGTON NEWSDAY
Photo credit: Randee Daddona | Peconic Landing, a retirement community in Greenport with more than 100 cottages improperly charged by LIPA. (July 12, 2011)
Weeks after several Long Island homeowners detailed thousands of dollars in electric and gas overpayments because the utilities classified them as commercial customers, the senior community of Peconic Landing is fighting perhaps the largest case yet. LIPA and National Grid have rejected the bulk of its requests for electric and gas refunds, and the community is appealing.
The revelations come after Long Island Power Authority chief operating officer Michael Hervey, at a LIPA trustee meeting last month, described the number of misclassified customers as “very small” — involving just eight customers.
Vanessa Baird-Streeter, a LIPA spokeswoman, said last week that Hervey “was not aware” of the Greenport customers at the time. She said Hervey has since directed National Grid, which handles complaints for LIPA, to provide “comprehensive information on all Peconic Landing electric accounts immediately.”
Baird-Streeter said LIPA also will examine whether the problem is larger than initially perceived. LIPA also is distributing information in a tract titled “Reading Your LIPA Bill” to customers “to ensure our customers have access to information needed to understand their LIPA bill.”
The Greenport problem originated with KeySpan, National Grid’s predecessor. It was discovered last fall by a consultant hired by the community.
Robert Syron, chief executive officer of Peconic Landing, said the residents have received a refund for a wrongly classified gas line to the Peconic Landing apartments, and are awaiting the results of the other appeals for gas and electric overcharges to the apartments and the cottages.
The LIPA and National Grid overcharges could total in the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars, Syron said.
Residents of Peconic Landing do not receive utility bills. Instead, the electric and gas charges are part of maintenance fees overseen by community administrators. Rate classifications were established when Peconic Landing opened in 2002.
Lawmakers from both counties are demanding that LIPA make bills easier to read and provide simple statements that detail customer rates. Last month, the Public Service Commission sided with National Grid in finding that bills and brochures were notice enough for a Lynbrook couple who claim they were charged at a commercial rate for 41 years.
One of those lawmakers, Suffolk Legis. Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) said Thursday that the Peconic Landing issue “raises a lot of concern about the accuracy of the billing system that National Grid and LIPA use.” He said he’s calling on LIPA and National Grid to “search their databases” to check for misclassified customers.
And the issue appears to have drawn the attention of state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. After a recent Newsday article on the Lynbrook couple who had been denied a refund after 41 years at the wrong rate, Thomas Ranallo, president of bill-auditing firm Troy & Banks, said he was contacted by an investigator in Schneiderman’s office asking questions about several cases the firm is fighting on behalf of ratepayers.
Lauren Passalacqua, a Schneiderman spokeswoman, said, “We cannot comment on potential matters before the office, but take these issues seriously and encourage New Yorkers to report them by contacting our office.”