A lava emergency evacuee found out utility companies can still bill you during a disaster

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A LEILANI ESTATES RESIDENT WHO EVACUATED DUE TO THE LAVA EMERGENCY SAYS HE WAS SHOCKED BY WHAT HE FOUND WHEN HE RETURNED HOME. AN ELECTRIC BILL FOR HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS. WE TRIED TO HELP AND LEARNED THERE ARE SOME STEPS RESIDENTS SHOULD TAKE IF THEY EVER END UP IN A SIMILAR SITUATION. JENN BONEZA HAS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. Volcanic eruptions, floods and thousands of local residents in 2018. Thomas farrel lives in THOMAS FARRELL, LEILANI ESTATE RESIDENT: “we were forced out of here when fisher 8 blew, i’m 1.2 miles from fisher 8.” He says he was shocked when he returned home in September to an electric bill for $677.38 TOM: “it’s really unfair, its really uncalled for, we’ve been through enough out here, give me a break.” Farrell had received a letter from Hawaii Electric Light in May that they were suspending billing…and would reach out once the emergency ended. it also asked customers to call if they were evacuating or had questions. Utilities were shut off in some areas for safety reasons, but farrell’s home still had power. And he admits he didn’t contact HELCO at the time. JENN: “I spoke to representatives from HECO and the board of water supply. They tell me it’s important for customers in situations like service. They also say they will work with customers on a case by case basis.” After we reached out to HELCO on Farrell’s behalf…they said they would work with him to reduce his bill for the time he wasn’t living in his home. I wanted to know if there are any guidelines for how utility companies bill customers displaced by natural disasters so I contacted the Public Utilities Commission. DEL WON, PUC executive officer: “when it comes to natural disasters, there’s an expectation on the part of the commission and I would expect on the part of the public, the utility would step up and deal with these circumstances in a responsible manner.” won tells me that customers can call the public utilities commission to file a complaint if they are unable to resolve the dispute on their own. Jenn Boneza KHON2 news.

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