At the Piscataway Senior Center, elderly residents appreciated the opportunity to ask questions of U.S. Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-6), Tom Malinowski (NJ-7) & Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) alongside Mayor Brian C. Wahler about the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3) from the 116th Congress.
Authored by Representative Pallone, H.R. 3, “… finally gives the federal government the ability to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for the American people. The bill also creates a new $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries and reverses years of unfair price hikes above inflation across thousands of drugs in Medicare.” H.R. 3 passed the U.S. House of Representatives on December 12, 2019.
December 16, 2020 - Affordable electricity and reliable Internet service are more important now since many are working and studying at home. Though the state regulates utilities, the Township Council and I continue to be your advocates for these essentials.
As you know, air conditioning bills skyrocketed over the summer as energy costs increased across the board. Please remember that the Township is part of the Piscataway Community Energy Aggregation (PCEA) program, not created by the Township Council or me but instead by Food & Water Watch, an international progressive organization, and its local supporters. They circulated petitions to put it on the ballot and voters approved it in November 2019.
Using renewable sources of energy is laudable but unfortunately, PCEA promoters were not correct about costs. A Food & Water Watch organizer said that Piscataway residents should expect to save something comparable to nearly $100 per year. One local PCEA supporter chided Township officials for being concerned about costs by saying “…because that’s all I ever hear here is how much and how much and how much,” at a September 2019 meeting. In reality with monthly utility reconciliation charges, the PCEA rate has sometimes been slightly higher than that of PSE&G’s published rate.
At that same meeting the supporter said, “We can expect somewhere between 12 and 15 percent of folks to opt out. Might be a little more, might be a little less, but it’s not going to be 70 percent based on all the experience, all the energy aggregation in the country and in New Jersey in the last 16 years.” This also did not turn out to be true. More than half of all households in the Township have opted out of PCEA.
Because Piscataway is compelled by the referendum to follow PCEA’s requirements, the Township has to rebid the program in 2021. Because it will be a new bid in addition to one for which a different energy company may be facilitating, those who do not want to be in PCEA may have to opt-out a second time. I wish this were not the case but the Township must follow state laws that govern this Food & Water Watch-created program.
Please make sure to get the Township e-mail newsletter, follow our social media or check the Township website. Once we have more information on the new bid, possibly in mid to late summer, we will let residents know what is occurring through them. We do not yet know if new postal letters will be mailed.
In the meantime, if you are currently enrolled and would like to opt-out or opt-up to a higher renewable energy content, you can do so at https://piscatawaycea.com/.
For Internet reliability, the Township Council and I continue to talk with Altice USA, which represents Optimum, about the spotty service and lack of consumer help that many residents have encountered. Optimum has made some equipment upgrades in the Heights and Arbor areas, and we expect it will continue to upgrade any weak spots that serve Piscataway. Altice advises customers having problems to share their experiences at optimum.net/chat.
In the meantime, please know that the Township Council and I encourage competition among cable companies. Verizon FIOS has a small footprint in Piscataway and we would certainly like to see it serve more customers. The Township does not decide what cable companies provide service in Piscataway, but instead it is their private business decision.
Again, please know that all of the utilities you use are a priority of ours. I hope that all of you and your families remain safe and healthy throughout the winter.