November 16, 2023
CHICAGO – The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) decided today on a controversial Peoples Gas rate case which environmental and public interest organizations applaud as a departure from previous rate proceedings and an overall victory benefiting customers. The Commission rejected a significant part of Peoples rate hike request, disallowing $265 million that Peoples requested for new pipes and $236 million for new buildings. Additionally, the Commission ordered the company to participate in a Future of Gas proceeding and to file new plans for its system every two years. The Commission made similar orders in Nicor Gas and Ameren Gas rate cases, collectively reducing utility rate requests by many millions of dollars.
The Commission rejected the company’s proposed fixed charge and implemented a robust low-income discount program. These changes can lead to lower customer bills and promote and reward energy efficiency. This decision comes at a time when Illinoisans are struggling to pay their bills and as advocates call for a transition away from the gas system to meet our state climate goals. The ICC’s determination in the gas rate case provides some concrete steps in achieving those objectives, according to advocates.
“This order is virtually unprecedented in terms of changing the system that for far too long has benefited utilities at the expense of consumers,” says Rob Kelter, Managing Attorney, Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Today reflects the commitment from the commission and Governor Pritzker to reduce carbon emissions and move toward electrification and renewable energy. The ICC made it clear today that it will take charge of a robust planning process that will accelerate that shift.”
“This decision is forward-thinking because it signals a commitment to our State’s climate goals by providing an actual framework for equitably winding down the gas system,” says Madeline Semanisin, NRDC Midwest Building Decarbonization Advocate.
The decision mandates a Future of Gas proceeding that will lay the groundwork for a comprehensive strategy to address the long-term challenges associated with the gas system.
“Today’s decision is a major victory for Chicagoans forced to pay ever-escalating bills for the failing Peoples Gas pipe replacement program. At long-last, regulators are holding Peoples Gas and its troubled program accountable,” says Abe Scarr, Director of Illinois PIRG.
“Today we got three decisions from the Illinois Commerce Commission that are a really big deal. Illinois just took vital steps toward aligning its gas systems with its overall clean energy goals, and toward affordable power for all Illinois families in the future,” says Christie Hicks, Senior Director for Equitable Regulatory Solutions for Environmental Defense Fund.
“Today’s decision marks critical progress in the fight for a cleaner, more affordable energy future. We applaud the ICC for hearing community concerns. And we also know there’s still a long road ahead for environmental justice communities like mine, where the cost of natural gas goes beyond just unaffordable rates,” says Cheryl Johnson, Executive Director of People for Community Recovery. “Across Chicago’s south and west sides, legacy contamination and poor outdoor air quality have contributed to disproportionate rates of respiratory illness. Gas stoves are making those worse. We’re glad to see the ICC pushing pause on future gas infrastructure investments and we hope Mayor Johnson and the Chicago city council take an important next step by supporting policies that transition homes and buildings away from dirty, expensive natural gas.”