No power, no home since Hurricane Ida, but big power bills

December 14, 2021 GMT

HOUMA, La. (AP) — Louisiana residents who lost their homes to Hurricane Ida or have not had power since the late-August storm tell a newspaper the power company is still billing them for hundreds of dollars a month.

Those bills could be for electricity and gas used before Ida hit on Aug. 29, and bills always include other costs such as fuel adjustments and storm restoration charges, Entergy Louisiana LLC told The Courier.

Brenda Billiot of Pointe-aux-Chenes said Ida destroyed everything but her front porch, but two Entergy bills since August totaled about $600.

“Where are these readings coming from?” Billiot said.

She said she paid the first bill and had been notified that her power would be shut off unless she paid the other by Tuesday. “They said I have until the 14th to pay before my power gets cut off but I don’t have any power anyways.”

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Robin Hunter and her husband, Jamie Theriot, said their post-storm bills have totaled more than $1,000 even though they have been living in a generator-powered camper in Chauvin. Running the generator costs $30 a day, Theriot said.

“We were told that we should’ve been responsible in the first place to ask to get our power shut off,” Theriot said.

“We cannot comment on individual customer accounts, however, we encourage anyone who has a question regarding their bill to call us at 1-800-ENTERGY so we can look into their individual situations and develop payment assistance plans as needed,” Entergy Louisiana spokesperson Brandon Scardiglia said in an email Tuesday to The Associated Press.

The company told the Louisiana Public Service Commission in November that Ida caused $2 billion to $2.4 billion in damage on top of $2 billion from hurricanes in 2020.

The company’s statement to The Courier said bills will cover multiple months if some could not be delivered because of storm damage or customers were unable to pay during recovery. “In some cases, zero usage was estimated for customers assumed to be without power because of the hurricane,” it said.

Sherrie Simoneux LeCompte, of Montegut, said she was billed for $236 last month even though her family is only washing occasional loads of laundry and running a light in the house while living in a camper.

“The only thing we’re running is a tiny 30 amp camper versus a 2,200-square-foot house and that’s what I normally paid for my entire house,” LeCompte said.

Fuel surcharges and the storm restoration fee make up much of the bill, she said. She said storm restoration should not be the customers’ responsibility since they are not to blame for the hurricane.

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“The whole situation has been nothing but a nightmare between them and insurance,“ LeCompte said. “It’s just baffling.”

Sherry Lyons Dardar, who also lives in Montegut, said she was out of electricity for 23 days.

“Entergy never missed a beat. Bill before the storm was $214. Right after I got an estimated bill of $214, then $204 and the last one was $268 and the last one was with no AC or heater. Something is screwy somewhere,” Dardar said.

Some residents said they have gotten credit for bills sent while power was out. Penny Constrantiche Hatch said she did not have power until mid-October and was billed based on previous months’ estimated usage.

“I called and raised ten different kinds of hell and I haven’t had to pay a bill since. I have credits,” Hatch said.

Rising natural gas prices have driven up utility costs nationwide, Entergy said. In Louisiana, high temperatures and torn insulation could have increased power use, it said.

The amount of power used is far from the only item on a bill, the statement said. Others include “cost to build and maintain generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure, energy usage, fuel adjustments and storm restoration charges,” it said.

The company said the Louisiana Public Service Commission requires Entergy Louisiana to pass the cost of fuel on to customers without any mark-up or profit.

Hunter, in Chauvin, said, “We just want them to give us some kind of help or credit. Just something to say that they care; that they care about what happened to us.”