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Features

Dear PSEG: We’re Just Not That Into You

We are only 100 days into the relationship, and already the honeymoon’s over. It’s not as severe as the woman who is charged with pushing her brand-new hubbie off a cliff, but it is fair to say that many of us don’t find PSEG Long Island as dreamy as we had hoped.

When LIPA was replaced as Long Island’s electric utility in favor of PSEG (LIPA is now only the client for this contractor), we had visions of mega-watt bliss with this division of the respected New Jersey utility, Public Service Electric & Gas.

Obviously, we set our expectations too high, as again and again, PSEG proved utilities will be utilities.

Up, Up, Up. In recent weeks, Port Washington has received a new skyline as PSEG installed 85-foot poles that are part of a 210-pole project that’s stringing a new power line in the Port/Manhasset/Great Neck area. The utility insists that without this new line, the peak demand of summer will lead to black-outs, or worse.

From what I can tell, PSEG isn’t doing anything illegal — the Town of North Hempstead signed off on the project late last year. But the installation of the poles began without warning, and residents literally woke up to the towering timber monsters. Angry residents, a public meeting and public protests didn’t faze PSEG, and the installation of the poles marched on.

Watch the crews work, and the efficiency of the process will astound (and depress) you, as the line nears completion. The town is left with little more to do than hire a consultant to study the feasibility of burying the power line. PSEG said that it’s amenable to underground cables as long as local ratepayers — not the rest of Long Island — foot the bill.

In East Hampton, it’s much the same with a power line that the utility insists must be strung before summer. There, where the poles are only 62-feet high, the town has issued a stop-work order on an electric substation. But the poles? Installation continues.

 Those Rising Rates. When PSEG took over on Jan. 1, the words of Gov. Andrew Cuomo were ringing in our ears about a two-year rate freeze. Well, there was fine print in that promise: The freeze is only on the electric delivery part of our bills.

The actual price of electricity was left to do whatever the market demanded. And with the bitter cold of this past winter, the price of natural gas (the increasingly popular fuel for electric generation) soared...and so did our bills.

Fortunately, as warm weather approaches, PSEG is forecasting lower rates. While the rate will still fluctuate on a monthly basis, the company recently announced that the power supply charge will decrease by more than 15 percent in April. Of course, don’t expect more than a few months of lower rates (remember, summer is high season).

Be Afraid of 2016. When the two-year partial rate freeze thaws, we will pay more. Perhaps much more. Already, there is word that our PSEG bills will include payments toward a 10-year loan that LIPA took to pay for more than $200 million in unfunded pension obligations. Another $400-million pension obligation was found lurking in LIPA’s 2013 financial statement. And these are just costs inherited from LIPA. What about PSEG’s rising labor and material costs? It doesn’t take a psychic or accountant to see that 2016 will be a doozy.

That will be our second anniversary together. Perhaps we ratepayers should have pushed harder on the pre-nup.

John Owens is editor in chief of Anton Community Newspapers. Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it