Community Voices in Energy will soon launch a new national training cohort designed to prepare participants to address energy justice issues and make change through energy regulatory cases that affect their communities. Over the course of about eight bi-weekly virtual trainings, we will address and demystify traditional legal intervention in public utility commission proceedings. The program will also broadly present how individuals can bring about a more just and affordable energy system through policy advocacy, organizing, and education. Visiting speakers will share insights from last year’s amazing successes in Illinois. At the end of the program, after participants have completed an Energy Justice Intervenor Project, Community Voices in Energy will provide certification that you have learned about navigating and influencing the energy regulatory system. Please sign up here to commit to this exciting energy justice group learning opportunity.
CHICAGO (Nov 16, 2023) – The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) decided today on a controversial Peoples Gas rate case which environmental and public interest organizations applaud as a departure from previous rate proceedings and an overall victory benefiting customers. The Commission rejected a significant part of Peoples rate hike request, disallowing $265 million that Peoples requested for new pipes and $236 million for new buildings. Additionally, the Commission ordered the company to participate in a Future of Gas proceeding and to file new plans for its system every two years. The Commission made similar orders in Nicor Gas and Ameren Gas rate cases, collectively reducing utility rate requests by many millions of dollars. “Today’s decision marks critical progress in the fight for a cleaner, more affordable energy future. We applaud the ICC for hearing community concerns. And we also know there’s still a long road ahead for environmental justice communities like mine, where the cost of natural gas goes beyond just unaffordable rates,” says Cheryl Johnson, Executive Director of People for Community Recovery. “Across Chicago’s south and west sides, legacy contamination and poor outdoor air quality have contributed to disproportionate rates of respiratory illness. Gas stoves are making those worse. We’re glad to see the ICC pushing pause on future gas infrastructure investments and we hope Mayor Johnson and the Chicago city council take an important next step by supporting policies that transition homes and buildings away from dirty, expensive natural gas.” This decision comes at a time where Illinoians are struggling to pay their bills and as advocates call for a transition away from the gas system to meet our state climate goals. The ICC's determination in the gas rate case provides some concrete steps in achieving those objectives, according to advocates. “This decision is forward-thinking because it signals a commitment to our State’s climate goals by providing an actual framework for equitably winding down the gas system,” says Madeline Semanisin, NRDC Midwest Building Decarbonzation Advocate. The Commission rejected the company’s proposed fixed charge and implemented a robust low income discount program. These changes can lead to lower customer bills and promote and reward energy efficiency. “This order is virtually unprecedented in terms of changing the system that for far too long has benefited utilities at the expense of consumers,” says Rob Kelter, Managing Attorney, Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Today reflects the commitment from the commission and Governor Pritzker to reduce carbon emissions and move toward electrification and renewable energy. The ICC made it clear today that it will take charge of a robust planning process that will accelerate that shift.” The decision mandates a Future of Gas proceeding that will lay the groundwork for a comprehensive strategy to address the long-term challenges associated with the gas system. “Today’s decision is a major victory for Chicagoans forced to pay ever-escalating bills for the failing Peoples Gas pipe replacement program. At long-last, regulators are holding Peoples Gas and its troubled program accountable,” says Abe Scarr, Director of Illinois PIRG. “Today we got three decisions from the Illinois Commerce Commission that are a really big deal. Illinois just took vital steps toward aligning its gas systems with its overall clean energy goals, and toward affordable power for all Illinois families in the future,” says Christie Hicks, Senior Director for Equitable Regulatory Solutions for Environmental Defense Fund. ###
Environmental Defense Fund and Blacks in Green have launched a new website that will help people around the country get involved in decisions about energy for their communities. The website, Community Voices in Energy, gives people tools to participate in energy decision making so they can protect their health, environment and money. These tools work with other planks of the partners’ Campaign To End Energy Poverty, which is designed to help make energy more affordable for all. The American standard is that light and heat cost about six percent of household income, but some low-income and frontline communities pay 20 percent or more. “Everyone should have a voice in creating our clean energy future and economic participation in the benefits. For that to happen, they need the ability to help shape decisions about the energy systems they rely on,” said Naomi Davis, founder and CEO of Blacks in Green and organizer of the campaign. “Our website is designed to help demystify the processes used by public utilities commissions and give people the tools they need to overcome participation hurdles.” The energy sector is one of the largest sources of climate pollution in the U.S., yet few people know how to get involved and influence the decisions public utility regulators make to govern gas and electric companies. Low-income and frontline communities often face more consequences from energy decisions than anyone else. Communities located near polluting power plants suffer from higher than average rates asthma and other lung diseases, lower property values, and worse air quality. At the same time, utilities have historically invested more in wealthier neighborhoods – so low-income communities can face more blackouts, slower repairs and less reliable service even while paying high and rising energy rates. Community Voices in Energy provides resources to help people learn about energy issues in their area, a toolkit to help them get involved, and training to help them provide expert testimony that brings community interests into public utility hearings. “A more just and equitable energy system is within reach, said Christie Hicks, EDF Senior Director for Equitable Regulatory Solutions. “When more people get involved in the process, it will change the information that regulators have – and that will change the way big decisions about energy are made. We hope this website will help utility regulators make rulings that lead to a more equitable, healthy and affordable energy future for all.”