In a recent earnings call, Gale Klappa, the CEO of WEC Energy Group (the parent of Peoples Gas), tried to dodge ongoing reports by Crain’s Chicago Business that the utility’s pipeline-replacement program is mismanaged, over-budget and on the verge of sparking a heating-affordability crisis in Chicago.
“I hate to use the (term) fake news, but that’s what it is with Crain’s,” Klappa said.
Klappa’s claim sparked a response on Twitter by Crain’s utility reporter Steve Daniels, who re-tweeted some of his hardest-hitting stories over the last year. Some excerpts:
April 5, 2019: “Record spending at Peoples Gas is boosting profits at the utility’s Milwaukee-based parent, while Chicago heating bills rise.” (Net income at Peoples rose to an all-time high of $132 million in 2018.)
Feb. 27, 2019: “Another year of pronounced cost overruns for Peoples Gas’ massive pipe-replacement project is fueling a renewed effort in Springfield to bring the utility to heel on spending.”
July 20, 2018: “…Chicagoans last year paid 80 percent more to heat their homes than suburbanites who get their natural gas from Nicor Gas.”
“There are real concerns about how many Chicagoans cannot afford heat,” Daniels told WBEZ radio this morning. “The average Chicago resident is paying something on the order of $1,100 or $1,200 for gas a year. Before, that was more like $700 or $800 a year.”
Crain’s reporting is based on facts—and it’s backed up by what Chicago consumers have told us when they attend CUB events across the city or call us. A typical question is: What’s going on with Peoples Gas bills?
One senior citizen’s bill was $41 in surcharges and fees—BEFORE she used one therm of gas. “I can’t afford this,” she said.
When Chicagoans tell us they can’t afford their heating bills, it’s not fake news.
CUB, AARP Illinois and other consumer advocates recently got a City Council committee to pass a resolution urging the General Assembly to support legislation to help fix the Peoples Gas pipeline-replacement program.