Statement: Peoples Gas attempts to claw back pipe replacement profits

Media Contacts
Abe Scarr

State Director, Illinois PIRG; Energy and Utilities Program Director, PIRG

In a motion filed this morning, Peoples Gas asks the Illinois Commerce Commission to clarify its order regarding the failing Peoples Gas pipe replacement program and to restore more than $134 million in proposed 2024 program spending. If approved, this would add $9.1 million to the Peoples Gas rate hike, which goes into effect today.
The motion’s argument rests on the assertion that the Commission’s order directs the company  “to pause only “neighborhood by neighborhood” work while disallowing investment amounts well beyond that category of work.” This assertion has no basis in the Commission’s order. While the Commission highlighted the program’s neighborhood approach as an area of particular concern, the order states clearly: “The Commission is pausing SMP.” SMP is the name of the pipe replacement program, which includes more than neighborhood work.
Peoples Gas further lists “emergency work” as a category of work it needs clarification from the Commission on. However, in its order, the Commission clearly stated, “The Commission expects [Peoples Gas] to continue to address existing and new leaks as it would in the normal course of prioritizing customer safety, as confirmed by the Company in Oral Argument on November 6, 2023.”
In response to the motion, Illinois PIRG Director Abe Scarr made the following statement:

“In an attempt to claw back profits made off its failing pipe replacement program, Peoples Gas is asking the Commission to clarify confusion of the utility’s own making. The Commission was crystal clear on two points. First, because Peoples Gas failed to justify continuing its program without serious reform, the Commission halted the program and ordered a new investigation. Second, Peoples Gas maintains its obligation to perform critical system safety work, like addressing hazardous gas leaks.

 “Nothing in the order prohibits Peoples Gas from making prudent safety investments or appropriately concluding in-progress projects. If Peoples Gas remains confused, we encourage the Commission to provide clarification without restoring any of the pipe replacement budget.”