CHICAGO – Peoples Gas made $208 million in profit in 2022, breaking its earnings record for the sixth consecutive year, according to a year-end financial report published Thursday. The report comes days after more than 100 people gathered outside Peoples Gas headquarters to call on regulators to reject the Chicago gas utility’s proposed $402 million rate hike, the biggest increase ever proposed by an Illinois gas utility.
As it has for every year since its record profit run began in 2017, Peoples Gas said the primary driver of its increased earnings was its troubled pipe replacement program. Over the same period, Peoples Gas has busted its pipe replacement budget and fallen short of replacement goals every year.
“Gas is dirty and expensive. It’s time to stop rewarding failure with record profits. It’s time for accountability,” said Illinois PIRG director Abe Scarr. “We call on the Illinois Commerce Commission to rein in Peoples Gas and its failing pipe replacement program.”
The $11 billion pipe replacement program, which could take another 25 years to complete, conflicts with the city’s climate goals. Chicago has set a goal of electrifying 30% of residential buildings by 2035.
The report also sheds light on the significant and growing Chicago home heating affordability crisis. One in five Peoples Gas customers are behind on their bills, including nearly 48% of customers in the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago’s South side. According to the report, more than half of past-due amounts at the end of 2022 were more than 90 days past due.
The proposed rate hike would increase average customer bills by over $140 per year.
“Peoples Gas keeps raising rates but our paychecks are not going up,” said Valerie Carroll, a grandmother who cares for a disabled brother in West Englewood, a community experiencing severe affordability problems. “It’s not that people don’t want to pay, it’s just that they can’t afford it. I see so many seniors struggling to afford their gas bill, saying I’m not going to get my medicine this month. And things will only get worse if Peoples Gas gets its record rate hike.”
Peoples Gas sent a $325 million dividend to its parent company Milwaukee-based WEC, up from $180 million in 2021. As part of its rate hike proposal, Peoples Gas is proposing a higher profit rate for shareholders of nearly 10 percent.
“About one in five Chicago gas customers are struggling to pay their bills as it is, and it will get even worse with the utility’s record rate hike,” CUB Executive Director David Kolata said. “Peoples Gas customers are getting gouged, while the company rolls in record profits. We urge the ICC to reject the Peoples Gas profit grab.”
The Illinois Commerce Commission will decide on the Peoples Gas rate proposal by the end of the year. Chicago residents can contact the ICC (at 1-800-524-0795, M-F 8:30-5:00) or electronically file a public comment with the ICC against the rate hike. Go to the “Take Action” tab of CUBHelpCenter.com.
The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition (ICJC) is made up of hundreds of environmental advocacy organizations, businesses, community leaders, consumer advocates, environmental justice groups, and faith-based and student organizations working together to improve public health and the environment, protect consumers, and create equitable, clean jobs across the state. After more than three years of community organizing and policy leadership, in 2021, ICJC was instrumental in helping pass the nation-leading Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA).