Editorial Roundup: Illinois

Chicago Sun-Times. November 2, 2022.

Editorial: Turn down the dial on rising Peoples Gas costs

Many customers already are struggling to pay their bills. The cost of the pipeline replacement program has ballooned to what looks like some $11 billion by the time the project is expected to be finished in 2048, eight years behind schedule.

Why does Peoples Gas Co.'s parent company keep making higher profits while a significant sector of Chicagoans are struggling to pay their heating bills?

Obviously, things are out of whack. The Legislature needs to fix this.

Peoples has undertaken a long-term pipeline replacement program, which the company says is needed to prevent hazardous leaks from its aging network of pipes. And, yes, safety is very important.

But to help pay for replacing some 2,000 miles of natural gas mains under the streets, sidewalks and parkways of Chicago, the company secured a legislative rider that allows it to spend money more quickly than many ratepayers - customers - can afford and expand the project beyond what critics see as reasonable.

Peoples is using the extra money it gets to upgrade its entire system, rather than the pipes most at risk. The cost has ballooned from an estimated $1.4 billion in 2007 to what looks like some $11 billion by the time the project is expected to be finished in 2048, as Crain's Chicago Business reported, eight years behind schedule.

Efforts to revoke the rider have died in Springfield year after year. Now, as the rider is scheduled to sunset at the end of 2023, there may be an effort in the Legislature to renew it in the upcoming session or replace it with a similar program under a different name. That would inflict more pain on ratepayers in the city. Most homes in the Chicago area are heated by gas.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker oppose Peoples' efforts to extend the surcharge. They should hold firm.

If the rider is not renewed, Peoples says it would come back instead with a traditional request for a rate increase. That, though, would have to get approval from the Illinois Commerce Commission. Now, critics say, the rider essentially gives Peoples automatic increases.

Until now, much of the cost of the pipe replacement program has been masked because natural gas prices were low and pandemic money helped people pay their bills. Now prices are trending up, and could be double what people were paying just two years ago. Although nationwide gas prices have dipped from a summer high, consumer advocates worry about an affordability crisis this winter if the weather is cold. In some Zip codes on the West and South Sides, more than 50% of ratepayers already are behind on their bills.

The higher cost for the delivery portion of bills - the part that pays for the pipeline grid and improvements - won't help. Critics say average ratepayers soon could be paying $50 before using a single therm of natural gas.

The ground is shifting under Peoples' feet as the world transitions to renewable energy. Chicago wants to decarbonize its buildings over the next two decades. Illinois has set a goal of transitioning to renewable energy by 2050. Money available through the Inflation Reduction Act will provide subsidies for people to buy heat pumps to heat their homes, reducing their need for gas. People will be encouraged to replace gas appliances with electric ones, powered by renewable energy.

Those most likely to transition from gas are those who can afford to. Those left behind will have to pick up a bigger and bigger share of the replacement program through their gas bills. The crisis of affordability only will get worse.

Peoples, the city and the Legislature need to figure this out. The city needs a gas distribution system that is safe for the next couple of decades. Gas needs to be affordable. And the city should not be left with a huge stranded asset on its hands, as both the city and state transition to carbon-free energy.


Champaign News-Gazette. November 4, 2022.

Editorial: Vote, and get the government you deserve

After Tuesday, life will return to normal.

The 2022 general election will be over soon, and the completion of another fractious political year can't come soon enough for most people.

The noise - and that's what much current campaign debate is - gets tiresome. But then, no one ever said that democracy is meant to be neat and tidy. It's never has been and never will be.

It could, however, be neater and tidier and, most importantly, more competitive, at least in Illinois.

The results, of course, are not in yet. But that doesn't mean the shortcomings of candidates in both parties as well as the structure of legislative races are exempt from criticism.

For starters, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker spent millions of dollars in the multi-candidate Republican gubernatorial to help assure that, in his opinion, the weakest candidate - Darren Bailey - would oppose him in the general election.

That's a clever trick, one borrowed from former Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. She initiated the tactic of trying to manipulate voters in the other party's primary, and it was quickly picked up elsewhere, including in Illinois.

If politicians are as concerned about maintaining the democratic process as they say they are, this is one tactic that should be quickly jettisoned.

At the same time, the only voters who can be easily manipulated by such unsavory tactics are those who are not as well informed as they should be. Citizens must either educate themselves or pay the price of ignorance.

Remember, voters get the government they deserve, good or bad.

That leads to another subject that presents a problem to the people of Illinois - gerrymandering.

The democratic process works best when there is real competition that creates a situation where each party can watch the other like a hawk.

It's impossible to predict the results of the Tuesday election. But the public should bear in mind that Democrats are hoping to expand their current super-majorities in both the state House and Senate and expect to win 14 of the state's 17 congressional seats.

The reason those are - or at least were - realistic expectations is that Democrats drew the legislative boundary lines in ways that give them a substantial political advantage. If predictions of a 'œred wave'ť prove to be accurate, it may not work out exactly as planned. But why should politicians of either party - Republicans and Democrats both gerrymander - be allowed to put their selfish political interest ahead of the public interest?

These are just two of the shortcomings in the democratic process. Despite that, it's important to remember that democracy in America has proved remarkably resilient and, in our view, will continue to do so.

Spring municipal and school board elections will follow next spring. The 2024 election will be here in the blink of an eye. After all, barring a change in schedule, the 2024 filing period will start in late 2023.

Some may view that with trepidation. Instead, it's a blessing of liberty, a reminder of Winston Churchill's famously sage remark that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.


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