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ICJC News Release: Experts say CABO will make new Chicago homes healthier, reduce energy bills, and create jobs. Peoples Gas President called out for prior false testimony.

NOTE: The following is a news release from the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition (ICJC), of which CUB is a member.

CHICAGO – At an April 3 subject matter hearing in Chicago City Council Chambers, experts made it clear the Clean and Affordable Buildings Ordinance (CABO) will reduce energy bills, make new Chicago homes healthier, and create thousands of new, high-paying jobs that don’t require a 4-year college degree. 

(Read CUB’s Q&A on CABO, and send a message in favor of the proposed ordinance.)

Dr. Juanita Mora, a pediatric allergist in Chicago, referenced a peer-reviewed study that found one in five Illinois childhood asthma cases is attributable to gas-stove pollution.  

“Black people have the highest rates of asthma in the U.S. and are more likely to experience serious complications from the condition. But it’s just not asthma. Dozens of health-harming, hazardous pollutants come from burning gas in buildings. A study from Stanford University shows that even when a gas stove is turned off, it leaks benzene – a known carcinogen linked to cancers of the blood,” warned Dr. Mora. The Stanford University study also found that benzene tended to spread throughout the home – including into bedrooms – and linger for hours. 

Sarah Moskowitz, Executive Director at Citizens Utility Board, made it clear that gas isn’t just unhealthy; expensive gas is creating an affordability crisis that CABO can begin to solve. 

“For years now, about one in five Peoples Gas customers have been consistently 30 days or more behind on their bills. And in Black and Brown neighborhoods like Englewood, South Shore, Chatham, Auburn Gresham and Woodlawn, 30-40 percent of our neighbors are chronically unable to afford their gas bills. The average debt is about $500 or worse–sometimes it has approached $1,000. Despite what Peoples Gas says, gas is far from being a cheap, reliable way to heat our homes,” said Moskowitz. 

A 2022 report by Energy Futures Group found Chicago residents living in all-electric new multi-family and single-family homes could see energy bill savings upwards of $1,000 in the first year alone. CABO can make those projected savings a reality. 

Moskowitz also pointed out that during a November 6th hearing of the Environmental Protection and Energy Committee, Peoples Gas President Torrance Hinton testified in front of many of the same Alders presiding over today’s hearing that the company knew of no research linking health risks to gas. 

Hinton’s comment immediately raised eyebrows, with Committee Chairperson Ald. Maria Hadden declaring that it sounded like she was at a hearing on “Big Tobacco.”  

We now know Hinton’s claim was completely false.  Two weeks ago, WGN-TV reported that 50 years ago in 1974, the then-President of Peoples Gas served on the board of a research organization that conducted studies “concerned” with what they called “pollutant emissions” generated by gas burners. 

Ald. Hadden added, “When Peoples Gas didn’t tell the truth about the health risks associated with gas that their company has known about for 50 years, it makes me question their testimony on affordability, jobs, and safety as well.” 

“All electric buildings are cheaper to build and cheaper to maintain. Newly constructed electric buildings will have lower energy bills than fossil fuel buildings because heat pumps are far more efficient than your father’s old boiler, and they work well in Chicago’s cold climate,” said A.J. Patton, Founder and CEO of 548 Enterprises, a 100% African American owned Chicago company that rehabs housing to be affordable, more energy efficient and cleaner while delivering double digits returns for investors. 

Patton pointed out the smart companies are already building all-electric in Chicago. The new Salesforce Tower, one of the largest commercial building developments in Chicago, was built all-electric and Google’s redevelopment of the iconic Thompson Center is also planned to be built all-electric. 

Sandra Henry, President and CEO of Slipstream, a non-profit with offices in Chicago, whose mission is to accelerate climate solutions for everyone said, “CABO is a huge opportunity for workforce development, especially in Black and brown communities that bear a disproportionate burden of pollution, a greater energy burden and are often left out of the clean energy jobs revolution.” 

Henry and Patton both pointed out that the vast majority of the kind of jobs CABO will create do not require an expensive 4-year college degree. 

Ald. Matt Martin, a co-sponsor of CABO, amplified the gains for every part of Chicago. “CABO really is a win-win for Chicago. CABO will make Chicago homes healthier, especially in Black and Brown communities, reduce energy costs, and create the kind of good-paying jobs that anyone with a high school diploma and the right skills training can earn.” 

Patton concluded, “Building new with gas in 2024 is like shoveling coal in your basement was in the 1940s, they are both dirty and expensive. A YES vote means yes to lower energy bills, yes to good-paying jobs, and yes to real opportunities for young Black and Brown people in every part of Chicago. A NO vote on CABO is a vote against opportunity, a vote against equity, and vote to keep Chicago from moving forward.”