ICC RULINGS REDUCE RECORD RATE-HIKE PROPOSALS; HALT CONTROVERSIAL PIPE-REPLACEMENT PROGRAM, AS REGULATORS DRAW LINE ON UTILITY EXCESS
CUB SAYS RULINGS COULD SIGNAL END OF "BUSINESS AS USUAL" FOR PEOPLES GAS, NICOR, AMEREN AND NORTH SHORE GAS
CHICAGO, Nov. 17, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- In a sweeping rebuff of four different utilities, Illinois regulators have sharply curtailed record rate hikes proposed for more than 4 million gas customers across the state, while also blocking most spending on a controversial pipe-replacement program that has fueled a heating affordability crisis for consumers in recent years.
Under the rulings by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) Thursday, customers of Peoples Gas, Nicor Gas, Ameren Illinois and North Shore Gas will still incur a rate increase, putting more stress on already struggling families – a pattern consumer advocates have said they are determined to stifle in coming years. Nonetheless, the decisions significantly limited the size of the rate hikes that the utilities threatened to inflict on consumers, and they collectively signaled that the regulatory climate in Illinois may be shifting decisively in the direction of stronger consumer protections.
In each of the cases, the ICC's reduction to the rate hike exceeded the amount – sometimes by large margins – recommended by the agency's administrative law judges. In all, the rate increases were lowered by about $240 million as a result of the ICC's actions.
"Rate hikes are never a cause for celebration, and we're dismayed that bills will increase for gas customers throughout Illinois – but we're thankful that the Illinois Commerce Commission demonstrated real resolve to rein in reckless profit-mongering by the state's gas utilities in ways we haven't seen in a long time," said CUB Executive irector Sarah Moskowitz. "We're hopeful that this ruling sends a signal to the state's utilities that the days of business-as-usual are coming to an end."
The net impacts of the rulings on the four utilities are as follows:
In recent years, Peoples Gas, Nicor and Ameren have inflated their profits by capitalizing on a controversial mechanism that allowed them to bill consumers directly for money they funneled into controversial pipe-replacement programs. In particular, the out-of-state parent company of Peoples Gas, WEC Energy Group, said the utility's System Modernization Program (SMP) was a major profit driver, helping Peoples rake in six consecutive years of record profits. On Thursday, that spending spree came to an abrupt halt after the ICC instituted a moratorium on the SMP for 2024, pending a comprehensive regulatory review of how Peoples Gas is administering the program.
On Thursday, the ICC also:
The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) is Illinois' leading nonprofit utility watchdog group. Created by the Illinois Legislature, CUB opened its doors in 1984 to represent the interests of residential and small-business utility customers. Since then, CUB has saved consumers more than $20 billion by helping to block rate hikes and secure refunds. For more information, call CUB's Consumer Hotline at 1-800-669-5556 or visit CUB's award-winning website, www.CitizensUtilityBoard.org.
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SOURCE Citizens Utility Board