Skip to main content

National Training | Sign up by February 20th

Justin Schott

Technical Expert Testimony

Justin Schott

Justin Schott, Director of the Energy Equity Project and Lecturer of Energy Justice at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability, testified in a case before the Illinois Commerce Commission involving a proposed rate increase by Peoples Gas.

In his role as Director of the Energy Equity Project, Schoot led the development of The Framework to Measure and Advance Energy Equity. Schott first provided an overview of the Framework including its four pillars of energy justice — Recognition, Procedural, Distributive, and Restorative. Schott explained how the framework shed light on the primary considerations for assessing requests for rate increases including: reducing or eliminating disconnections and reducing the maximum energy burdens faced by customers to decrease disparities on BIPOC households.

Schott explained that between April to November 2022, Peoples Gas issued 15,410 disconnections, 60% of which did not result in reconnection and 1,814,882 late fees. Disconnections can cause an array of health problems and the late fees resulted in an overall increased energy cost of 19.6% per year for customers. Majority Black, Hispanic, or Asian communities have faced disconnection notices and rates at almost double and triple the rate of white communities, respectively, even where income is an equalizing factor. These disparities, Schott noted, constitute the definition of environmental racism set forth by Dr. Robert Bullard. Schott went on to discuss how PGL’s definition of “low-income” customer is so restrictive that it only provides low-income benefits to a sixth of People’s Gas customers that should be classified as low income.

Schott recommended Peoples Gas maximizing low-income discount credit enrollment by enabling automatic enrollment and annual recertification, allowing for customer self-certification and ensuring equitable participation on the basis of zip code and demographics. To support increased affordability, Schott recommended that People’s Gas offer energy efficiency programs and proactive efforts to enroll customers in bill assistance programs.

Are you interested in testifying in a utility rate case?
Become a certified energy justice intervenor.

More Testimonies

Microphone in a court room
Technical Expert Testimony

Andrew Barbeau

Technical expert Andrew Barbeau testified that ComEd’s proposal to use system-wide metrics to measure reliability disadvantages the residents of more vulnerable frontline communities. Instead, the needs of these communities must be front and center in the utility’s plans.
Microphone in a court room
Community Expert Testimony

Gregory Norris

Community expert Gregory Norris, founder of an environmental justice organization, testified that lack of affordable energy has an outsized impact on Black and brown neighborhoods. Solutions will only be implemented justly if there is intention and accountability. ComEd can use tenets of energy justice to guide grid planning.
Microphone in a court room
Community Expert Testimony

Kelly McCleary

Community expert Kelly McCleary testified that higher rates can lead to a cascade of problems. The higher rates get, the fewer customers will be able to afford to invest in clean energy, including energy efficiency, and save in the future. Utilities should invest in making the grid more ready for renewable energy, not just user rate hikes to garner higher profits for shareholders.
Microphone in a court room
Community Expert Testimony

Ryan O’Donnell

Community expert Ryan O'Donnell testified that communities should have energy sovereignty, meaning some degree of ownership over the means of energy production. Benefits of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) should be visible, making the system more fair and balanced environmentally and economically.
Microphone in a court room
Community Expert Testimony

Cheryl Watson

Community expert Cheryl Watson testified that utility policies contribute to and exacerbate cumulative burdens to disadvantaged communities and must be changed. Utilities need to be more holistic and community centered, planning with the community, not for them.
Microphone in a court room
Technical Expert Testimony

Justin Schott

Technical expert Justin Schott testified that Peoples Gas’ disconnection and late fee practices and qualifications for low-income discounts are placing undue energy burdens on BIPOC communities.
Microphone in a court room
Technical Expert Testimony

Chris Neme

Technical expert Chris Neme testified that transitioning single-family homes from gas furnaces to electricity is cost-effective for the average homeowner in Peoples Gas service territory.
Microphone in a court room
Technical Expert Testimony

Dr. Guillermo Pereira

Technical expert Guillermo Pereira testified that ComEd must create a detailed framework to track and report on how proposed benefits would reach households, to comply with the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act.
Pipeline running through agricultural area
Media Article

Legitimizing Situated Knowledge in Rural Communities Through Storytelling Around Gas Pipelines and Environmental Risk

A scholarly article from the November 2021 issue of Technical Communication, demonstrates that rural landowners and community members’ place-based knowledge is expertise that should be considered by technical communication professionals.
34 states have climate equity policies in place as of 2023
Blog

EDF’s new equity map shows state efforts to make the energy transition fairer for all

Across the U.S. states are passing laws that will ensure greater equity as we transition to a clean energy system. EDF has developed an interactive map – based on our new report, the State Climate Equity Survey – that documents states’ efforts to make their energy transition more equitable and healthier. Our new map identifies which states require, allow, or promote consideration of equity and environmental justice in agency decision-making and budget-setting.
Image of agricultural landscape
FeaturedMedia Article

Fighting An Unjust Pipeline

An article from the spring 2022 edition of EDF’s Solutions, details how the Pembroke Environmental Justice Coalition and EDF is working to stop a natural gas pipeline from being built in Pembroke Township – an historic Black farming community.
Illinois Commerce Commission chair announces decision favoring clean energy
Media Article

Advocates hail regulatory ‘earthquake’ as state slashes requested gas rate increases

Illinois regulators unanimously approved rate hikes for four major natural gas utilities, but slashed the utilities' requested rate increases by as much as 50%. The regulators also launched a series of "future of gas" hearings that will for the first time hold the utilities accountable for aligning their planning with the state's 100% clean energy goals. "As the state embarks on a journey toward a 100% clean energy economy, the gas system's operations will not continue to exist in its current form," the Commission's Chairman said in a statement.