stocksolutions via Shutterstock

Peoples Gas is failing to prioritize public safety with its pipe replacement program, instead overhauling its entire system, busting its budget, and leaving customers with the bill.

It's no secret that some of Chicago’s old gas mains are prone to leak or break, and need to be replaced to protect public safety. But instead of prioritizing the worst pipes for replacement, Peoples Gas is overhauling its entire system, leaving leaky pipes in the ground while doing unrelated work. As a result, leak rates aren’t declining the way they should after spending billions of dollars on a pipe replacement program.

Because Peoples Gas is doing so much more than just replace old leaky pipes, program cost estimates have grown from $1.4 billion to $11 billion between 2007 and 2015. The outsized costs turn into higher customer bills. This winter, the average Chicago gas customer paid $324 more to heat their home than did the average suburban gas customer, who have a different gas utility, despite suburban customers using more gas.

It makes sense to repair old infrastructure to keep us safe, but it doesn’t make sense to pour billions of dollars into a rapid overhaul of the entire Peoples Gas system when climate science tells us we should start shifting away from heating our homes by burning fossil fuels such as gas.

We can’t allow Peoples Gas to keep spending billions of dollars and driving up customer bills on an unnecessary system overhaul. It’s time for Peoples Gas to prioritize public safety and redirect its pipe replacement program toward replacing the worst pipes first.

 

Unfortunately, instead of forcing Peoples Gas to reform its program in 2018, the state utility regulator chose to look the other way. That’s why we’re calling on other state policy makers to take action.