This is a joint statement from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, the City of Chicago and CUB for a Crain’s Chicago Business report that showed the Peoples Gas pipeline-replacement program is on track to be billions of dollars over-budget and years behind schedule.
Together, we have spent years pushing the Illinois Commerce Commission and Peoples Gas for greater oversight and accountability around the System Modernization Program (SMP). Peoples Gas is rushing to do upgrades it should have done gradually over the last several decades, which is what other gas utilities did. The company is playing costly “catch-up” and it is unmanageable. The customer surcharge that Peoples Gas uses to pay for this program makes up over 37% of the average delivery charge on a bill. That surcharge is due to expire at the end of next year and it should not be renewed by the legislature. Also, recent sharp and unprecedented increases in the cost of natural gas will only compound the burden of the SMP costs on Chicagoans this winter, especially for families struggling with many other increased costs. The data bears our concerns out: Natural gas service is unaffordable when nearly one in three Peoples Gas customers in the city are assessed late fees for not being able to pay their bills on time. It is time for the company to come to the table with solutions before the situation worsens further.