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From the Desk of David Kolata: CUB Executive Director’s New Year Report

CUB Executive Director David Kolata

This report is a thanks and tribute to CUB’s supporters. You are working for a better Illinois, and I’m grateful to you.

I know it’s easy to get discouraged these days, but remember that you are part of an Illinois success story. Together, here’s what we accomplished in 2017:

Legal/Policy: Helped win $140 million in lower utility bills in cases before the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).

  • $17.5 million ComEd rate cut. 
  • $80 million ComEd refund. 
  • $42.5 million reduction in Nicor Gas’ proposed hike (but we want to cut it by a lot more!!). 

We also helped win stronger rules against electric rip-offs. ICC Chairman Brien Sheahan said: “I want to thank David Kolata and the Citizens Utility Board and Attorney General (Lisa) Madigan for their steadfast persistence in crafting these rules. They deserve much credit for their strong and consistent advocacy on behalf of utility customers in Illinois.”

Outreach: Staffed 436 money-saving events and showed customers how to save $231,868.27 by analyzing utility bills, handing out energy-efficient light bulbs, and signing up people for efficiency programs.

At one CUB utility-bill clinic, a CUB volunteer—just an average person like you and me—saved not one, but two people from paying quadruple on their gas bills with an unregulated gas supplier. Service like that sparked another clinic-goer to exclaim: “It feels good to have someone on my side!”

Consumer Advocacy: Fielded 3,500 complaints/inquiries about utility companies and generated $130,472.40 in savings by advocating for consumer rights, spotting billing errors and securing refunds for people who contacted CUB.

“We would not have a resolution today if it weren’t for CUB’s care and concern,” said one CUB member who worked with the consumer advocacy team to erase a $6,400 AT&T debt for her 85-year-old neighbors. “You would not believe how difficult it is to find real help and advocacy out there for consumers.”

CUB Action Network: We generated more than 530,000 emails, petition signatures, and faxes urging policymakers to fight high bills and rip-offs in 2017. Policymakers from the halls of the State Capitol to the White House heard from us.

New Publications: CUB’s research arm created an important guide on electric vehicles, a groundbreaking study on hourly pricing, and for the first time ever we released a guide to help people protect their privacy from crooks and scam artists on the internet. (We also updated our guide to cutting TV costs.)

2018 Battles: As consumer advocates all of us must remain vigilant, given the fights we face next year.

  • Nicor’s $166 million rate hike will be ruled on early in 2018.
  • In an ongoing ICC matter, there’s mismanagement in a Peoples Gas pipe-replacement program that could cost customers $8 billion.
  • We’ve launched a court challenge against the $35 million Illinois American Water rate hike.
  • We hope to block Dynegy’s rate-hike legislation that could raise electric bills in Central and Southern Illinois by up to $400 million a year.
  • We were disappointed that the General Assembly passed AT&T-supported legislation that sets the stage for the end of traditional landline phone service in Illinois. Now the battle moves to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). At the FCC, we will challenge any move by AT&T to kill landlines, which are still the most reliable phone service for many vulnerable customers.

Those are big battles, but we’re not giving up. Let’s work together to get good things done in Illinois in 2018! I look forward to working with you this year. Thank you!