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Illinois utility now being investigated following rate hike reduction

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(The Center Square) – The investigation continues into an Illinois utility’s pipe replacement program after a rate hike request was rejected.

The Illinois Commerce Commission approved a $1.6 million rate increase for emergency work, but Peoples Gas was looking for a nearly $8 million hike. Commissioners criticized the company for its repeated failure to justify its rate increase requests.

“Transparency is and will continue to be of the utmost importance when it comes to understanding the investments and activities needed to proactively modernize Illinois’ utility system,” said ICC Commissioner Stacey Paradis.

Peoples Gas criticized the ruling, saying it jeopardized the “safety and reliability” of Chicago’s energy system.

The ICC issued its decision after closely scrutinizing Peoples’ rehearing filing, along with materials submitted by the utility, cmmission staff, and others over a five-month legal proceeding.

“Not only did Peoples Gas fail to justify yet another rate hike, this proceeding provided further evidence that the Peoples Gas pipe replacement program is profoundly troubled, reinforcing why the commission’s investigation is critically important,” said Abe Scarr, Illinois director of the Public Interest Research Group.

Scarr said the program is mismanaged and failing to cost-effectively address the risks posed by aging iron pipes in the Peoples Gas system.

In February, the commission began a separate investigation into Peoples’ pipe replacement program, which will continue through early 2025 and inform how the ICC directs the utility to cost-effectively remove cast iron and ductile iron pipe from its natural gas system.

Last December, the ICC lowered Ameren and ComEd’s rate increase requests by hundreds of millions of dollars. Scarr said he sees a trend with the commission.

“I think it is a good one and I think for too many years the ICC was not skeptical enough and wasn’t fulfilling its mission to really look out for consumers and the public,” said Scarr.

Peoples Gas has indicated it will appeal the ICC’s decision in court.