The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) Wednesday granted Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas a $78.5 million increase in delivery rates ($74.8 million for Peoples Gas, $3.7 million for North Shore Gas, according to ICC figures).
We’re glad the ICC slashed the companies’ initial rate requests by more than $50 million, but we still think the increase is too high. After all, Peoples and North Shore have received more than $250 million in rate hikes since 2008 and their parent company raked in more than $240 million in profits in just three quarters of 2014! Chicago consumers deserve a break.
At the hearing, the ICC listened to testimony from nine consumers and advocates about how the rate increase places an unfair burden on Illinois consumers. Here’s what they had to say:
- “When you’re getting rate hike after rate hike, that’s sickening.”
- “The proposed rate hike will impact the people with the least resources.”
- “Given these profits, why is a rate hike needed?”
- “The rate increase will hit low-income residents the hardest.”
Perhaps the most emotional testimony came from Mary Bailey of Chicago, a Peoples customer for more than 30 years whose gas was shut off last year when she couldn’t afford her bill. She finally negotiated a payment plan with Peoples and had service restored yesterday. But after the frigid cold in the beginning of the month, her pipes and radiators had burst, she said, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage.
“It’s expensive to be poor,” Bailey said, “and another rate increase only makes it worse.”
The final vote was 3-1 in favor of the increase (ICC Commissioner Miguel del Valle voted no, stating, “More could have been done to lessen the increase.”)
The rate hike affects the “delivery” portion of your bill, which is what companies charge to deliver gas to homes. These charges take up about a third to a half of a gas bill. While heating bills vary based on how much gas you use, the ICC estimated that an average Peoples Gas customer, using about 1,000 therms of gas a year, could pay approximately $2.70 to $2.75 more per month. North Shore customers using approximately 1,200 therms of natural gas a year for heating could pay about $1.05 to $1.10 more per month.
CUB plans to file a petition for rehearing to challenge parts of the rate hike. Stay tuned to find out how you can help!