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A new coalition of consumer and environmental advocacy organizations is calling on the Illinois legislature to adopt a utility accountability agenda that immediately ends the automatic rate hikes that have added more than $5 billion to ComEd’s coffers and raised delivery rates by 37 percent.
The Take Our Power Back coalition brings together AARP Illinois, Illinois PIRG and the Environmental Law & Policy Center to fight for restitution, regulation and reform in the wake of ComEd’s corruption scandal. The coalition on Thursday held events activating Illinois PIRG and AARP Illinois’ membership base of 1.7 million Illinoisans to contact their legislators in support of Take Our Power Back agenda, available here.
“For years, AARP Illinois has demanded answers as to why ComEd has been able to pad its pockets through massive rate increases, while gouging its customers,” said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois State Director. “On behalf of our members, and all Illinoisans 50-plus, we stand fervently against this corruption that has hurt everyday Illinoisans and implore the General Assembly to support this agenda and put consumers first once and for all.”
These “formula rates” were the result of what federal prosecutors describe as a corrupt bribery scheme going back almost a decade. Last summer, the utility admitted to giving out jobs and contracts, often with no expectation of work, to allies of House Speaker Madigan, in hopes of influencing one of the state’s most powerful politicians.
Madigan is out of power, but the laws passed during this time remain, enriching ComEd at the expense of its customers. ComEd argued formula rates were necessary to enable $2.6 billion of spending over 10 years. Instead, it has already added more than $5 billion to its rate base, off of which it earns a profit. According to a recent Exelon investor presentation, ComEd is planning to increase its rate base by $2.2 billion more in just the next two years, creating record profits through higher rates.
“Any energy legislation passed this spring must include meaningful utility accountability and reform,” said Illinois PIRG Director Abe Scarr. “We need an independent audit of ComEd’s spending over the past decade to understand its extraordinary spending levels and to ensure customer benefits going forward.”
The coalition’s full agenda calls for a slate of reforms, including:
Restitution: ComEd’s scheme made them billions in excess profits, profits we paid for with our monthly bills. We deserve some money back.
Restore Oversight: To make sure we don’t continue to overpay, we must subject ComEd to a thorough independent investigation, and give power back to utility regulators.
Reform: ComEd gained too much power and influence over our lawmakers. We need ethics and political reform to stop that from happening again.
“We must protect Illinois consumers by stopping ComEd from getting automatic rate hikes – with little or no oversight by the Illinois Commerce Commission,” said Environmental Law & Policy Center Executive Director Howard Learner. “Eliminating ComEd’s formula rates would allow the ICC to make shareholders – not consumers – pay for ComEd’s poor decision making, mistakes and inefficiencies. And legislators should make clear in the statute that consumers will in no way pay for ComEd’s corruption and its associated fines and penalties.”
Gov. Pritzker announced a set of energy principles in August, including many of the policies included in the Take Our Power Back agenda, including ending formula rates. The Illinois legislature is expected to negotiate wide ranging energy legislation over the next two months.
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