Today, Peoples Gas is expected to file for a $402 million rate-hike request, which represents close to a 60% increase over the rates approved by state regulators in 2015. As part of the rate-hike filing, Peoples Gas has indicated that it is including the $207 million the utility is currently collecting from the Qualified Infrastructure Plant (QIP) surcharge–a fee that averages about $15 a month and funds the utility’s controversial System Modernization Program (SMP)–in regular delivery rates. The legislatively approved QIP surcharge has been a key reason for the rapidly rising bills Chicago residents have suffered in recent years, and we call on the General Assembly to eliminate it once and for all.
The City, Illinois Attorney General’s Office and CUB will challenge this excessive rate hike on behalf of residents, and we urge the Illinois Commerce Commission to take action to stop these increases and protect all customers.
For years, the City, the Attorney General’s office, and consumer advocates have shared a deep concern about Peoples Gas’ poorly managed System Modernization Program (SMP). Specifically, the infrastructure program impacts natural gas affordability among Chicago consumers — as natural gas supply prices have already been at painfully high levels for about two years. Peoples Gas’ rate hike is grim news for Chicago consumers who have suffered for years under the expensive SMP program and who now face a historically expensive winter heating season. This enormous rate hike makes a bad situation worse for too many people who are making difficult decisions on how to pay for heat, food, medicine and rent. These price increases are particularly irresponsible when, on average, about one out of four residential customers already cannot afford to pay their monthly bills on time.
We must continue to transition toward a future of more affordable and sustainable options of heating our homes.