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Nicor hike cut by 27%–but still too high for CUB

General Counsel Julie Soderna

CUB helped reduce Nicor Gas’ record-high rate-hike request by more than $62 million, but the watchdog’s work isn’t over: It will challenge the state regulatory ruling to try to save consumers more money.

On Oct. 2, just as the winter heating season began, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) granted Nicor a $167.7 million rate hike. With the new rates in effect as of Oct. 8, typical Nicor residential customers will see an average increase of $3.32 on their monthly bills.

The $168 million increase comes on the heels of another Nicor rate hike ─ a $93.5 million increase ─ that was put into effect just last year. (CUB helped reduce that one by more than $100 million.) In the latest case, CUB plans to file a “petition for rehearing,” which is a challenge to the ICC’s ruling. 

“We’re glad we helped cut the hike by over $60 million, but we’ve got more work to do,” CUB General Counsel Julie Soderna said. “This is horrible timing: Winter bills are bad enough, but they’ll be even worse now that Nicor received this increase. So, it’s that much more important to challenge the Illinois Commerce Commission’s ruling–in hopes of cutting the hike even more.”

The increase impacts delivery rates, which make up about a third to a half of gas bills. It affects more than 2 million residential, public sector and business customers of Nicor  in more than 650 communities throughout northern Illinois.

When Nicor originally filed for an increase last November, the $230 million proposal was the largest natural gas rate hike request CUB has ever seen in its 35-year history fighting for Illinois consumers. 

That record-setting request would have cost the average homeowner $5.36 per month, according to the utility’s estimates.

During the course of the case, Illinois’ largest gas utility trimmed its request to $180 million Then, Crain’s Chicago Business reported that three ICC judges “shocked” the utility when they sided with consumer advocates on some issues and recommended cutting the increase by another $28 million.

In the end, the commissioners did not follow all of the judges’ recommendations. They voted 3-2 to give Nicor the $168 million rate hike  The two dissenting commissioners wanted an even higher rate hike.