Peoples Gas pipeline replacement program creates jobs and makes Chicago safer

Chicago counts on Peoples Gas to provide safe, reliable service every minute of every day, year-round.

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Troy Jefferson, a worker with Peoples Gas union Local 18007, works on the utility’s gas main replacement project.

Sun-Times Media

As Chicagoans faced an exceptionally long run of bitter cold temperatures last month, they probably didn’t think about the natural gas that heats their homes. And that’s how it should be.

Chicago counts on Peoples Gas to provide safe, reliable service every minute of every day, year-round. Safety. Reliability. These are the things Chicago expects from its natural gas service provider. The Chicago Sun-Times lost sight of this in its Feb. 28 editorial calling for an end to the Peoples Gas System Modernization Program, a safety initiative to replace more than 2,000 miles of deteriorating natural gas pipes, some of which date to the time of Abraham Lincoln.

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Recent tragedies in Massachusetts, Maryland and New York have underscored the urgent need to upgrade natural gas delivery systems in older cities such as Chicago. And just last month in Texas, we again saw the danger of underinvestment in the energy system.

Last year, an independent engineering study ordered by the Illinois Commerce Commission said replacing Chicago’s antiquated system is mandatory for protecting public safety. The study called for an aggressive pace of replacement and found more than 80% of the iron natural gas pipes in Chicago have an average remaining life of less than 15 years.

Fortunately, SMP has already reduced the chance Chicago could suffer a natural gas explosion similar to those experienced elsewhere. More than 1,000 miles of modern plastic piping have been installed, and the multi-decade program is currently 30% complete. The new pipes — which are less prone to leaks — have drastically reduced the number of leaks in the Peoples Gas delivery system.

Now, some are calling to stop this critical safety program. In addition to public safety, there is much at stake. SMP creates more than 1,200 good-paying union jobs each year. Those jobs helped support our communities during the pandemic and will continue to drive the Illinois economy. SMP also helps create a bright, sustainable future by reducing the emissions of methane. Through SMP, Peoples Gas has pledged to reduce methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030, the equivalent of taking 34,000 cars off the road.

Safety will always be our top priority as we continue to provide the reliable natural gas our customers depend on. We can work toward a clean energy future while supporting policies to keep our communities safe, create jobs and rebuild our vital infrastructure.

Charles Matthews, president and CEO, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas

Who wrote these bills?

Your March 8 editorial outlined the possibility of Gov. J.B. Pritzker signing a bill to cap interest rates at 36% on payday and title loans mentions HB 3192 and SB 2306, House and Senate bills. Those bills, if passed, would greatly dilute the purpose of the reduction to 36% in the bill that is awaiting the governor’s signature.

The question is: Who wrote, introduced, co-sponsored HB 3192 and SB 2306? They need to be called out to explain their rationale.

H. Todd Cubbon, Crete

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