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CUB General Counsel Report by Julie Soderna

Julie Soderna, CUB General Counsel

CUB Executive Director David Kolata has asked me to prepare a General Counsel’s Report to outline for our most generous supporters the work we’ve been doing in 2018:

Senior Attorney Kelly Turner and I are pleased that so far this year we’ve helped cut Nicor’s proposed rate hike by $115 million and worked to make sure the big utilities reduced rates by a total of $350 million in connection with the federal tax cut.

Additionally, the outreach team has staffed 341 events and shown Illinoisans how to save $114,431, and the consumer advocacy team has taken 2,251 complaints/inquiries and saved consumers $103,043.

But we’re still fighting billions of dollars in current and future rate hikes against the best lawyers that big energy companies can buy:

  • ComEd’s rate case (Illinois Commerce Commission Docket No. 18-0807) could lead to a $23.5 million decrease, but an expert analysis shows that rates should go down another $95 million. We’re fighting for the bigger rate cut.
  • In another case (FERC Docket No. EL18-178-000), ComEd customers could see their bills rise by hundreds of millions of dollars if giant electricity generators succeed in convincing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to change electricity market rules. Plus, we’re bracing for a plan by the White House to prop up failing coal-fired power plants—and raise our costs by potentially billions of dollars a year.
  • Ameren Illinois filed for a $46.6 million gas hike (ICC Docket No. 18-0463), but CUB and other consumer advocates are pushing for a rate decrease of $10 million. Meanwhile, in the State Capitol, Texas-based Vistra has indicated it wants Ameren customers to pay up to $400 million a year in higher electric bills to bail out the company’s expensive coal-fired power plants.
  • The ICC has opened a rulemaking (ICC Docket No. 17-0857) to strengthen protections for gas customers. Of course, supplier groups are challenging the ICC’s authority to regulate them. This is a long process, but it feels urgent when I hear sad stories about victims of alternative supplier rip-offs who overpay by hundreds of dollars.
  • Customers could be on the hook for $11 billion in costs for the mismanaged Peoples Gas pipe-replacement program (ICC Docket Nos. 16-0197 and 16-0376). Crain’s Chicago Business reported that Chicago gas customers on average paid 80 percent more to heat their homes last winter than suburban customers—and if something isn’t done to fix the program it could lead to a “heating-affordability crisis.” Currently, in our review of the program’s 2015 expenditures, we’ve uncovered errors in contractor billings and unreasonable increases in billing rates because of project delays. We will recommend refunds accordingly.

These cases are expensive—they require hours of writing and filing testimony, and hiring experts to argue for lower rates. But CUB has helped save Illinois consumers $20 billion over the years—because good people like YOU support us.

A group of generous CUB supporters is matching contributions this week, so your donation will be twice as powerful. Stand up against big corporations that want to make us pay more. Remember, this week $25 is like giving $50!