Public Comment on the Peoples Gas Accelerated Main Replacement Program
I prepared a public comment before the Illinois Commerce Commission, opposing their plan to approve an increase in spending on the troubled Peoples Gas pipe replacement program. The Commission denied my request to make an oral comment. They did not give me a reason why.
I prepared a public comment to give before the Illinois Commerce Commission, opposing their plan to approve an increase in spending on the troubled Peoples Gas pipe replacement program. The Commission denied my request to make an oral comment. They did not give me a reason why.
According to Illinois Administrative Code, the decision to grant or deny requests from members of the public to make public comment at a Commission meeting is up to the Chairman, who shall consider, at a minimum, the following standards:
- whether the comments are germane;
- the order of written requests;
- “the desirability of permitting public airing of a representative variety of viewpoints;” and
- whether the requesting party to a precending proceeding.
My comments are certainly germane, I submitted my request earlier than at least one colleague who was granted an opportunity to speak, and niether I nor my organization is party to a pending proceeding before the commission. While the Chairman may consider more than these four standards, one may conclude he decided it was not desirous to air my viewpoint, which is highly critical of the Commission’s proposed action today.
Below are the remarks I planned to give today.
Public Comment of Abraham Scarr, Director, Illinois PIRG Education Fund, before the Illinois Commerce Commission.
Good morning. Chairman Sheahan and Commissioners, thank you for the opportunity to provide public comment today.
My name is Abraham Scarr and I am the Director of Illinois PIRG Education Fund. Illinois PIRG Education Fund is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. I am also a Chicago resident and Peoples Gas customer.
When the the Liberty Audit was publicly presented in May 2015, Chairman Sheahan said, “the Illinois Commerce Commission will work to ensure that costs of mismanagement will not be borne by Peoples Gas customers.”
Sadly, with today’s vote to ramp up, rather than rein in, the Accelerated Main Replacement Program, Peoples Gas customers will bear the costs of mismanagement for years to come.
Not only is the commission failing to live up to its strong words at the launch of this investigation, the commission is failing to uphold its most basic regulatory responsibility.
The Commission is failing Peoples Gas customers.
Peoples Gas and Commission Staff contend the Commission lacks legal authority to regulate the scope, pace, and spending of the Accelerated Main Replacement Program.They do so by conflating regulation of a cost recovery mechanism with regulation of the program itself. This conflation has no basis in fact or law.
The commission very clearly has not only the authority but the responsibility under the Public Utilities Act to direct Peoples Gas to slow the program down and to better prioritize replacing the most at risk pipes. The commission is choosing not to exercise its authority, choosing not to uphold its responsibility.
This choice is shocking and profoundly disappointing.
I and others will continue to fight to rein the program in.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to provide public comment today.
State Director, Illinois PIRG
Abe Scarr is the director of Illinois PIRG. He is a lead advocate in the Capitol and in the media for stronger consumer protections, utility accountability, and good government. In 2017, Abe led a coalition to pass legislation to implement automatic voter registration in Illinois, winning unanimous support in the Illinois General Assembly for the bill. In 2019, he co-authored "Tragedy of Errors," a report documenting decades of mismanagement in the Peoples Gas pipe replacement program, and has built a large coalition to end wasteful gas utility spending. Before moving to Illinois in 2014, Abe worked as the state director for ConnPIRG, where he helped pass a landmark solid waste and recycling law. He also serves as a board member for the Consumer Federation of America. Abe lives in Chicago, where he enjoys biking, cooking and tending his garden.