Chicago must finish modernizing its natural gas system

Some call for the project to be stopped in view of anticipated movement to green energy sources. However, we must be realistic. An alternative energy source for the 878,000 customers in Chicago is likely decades away.

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Peoples Gas crew work on installing a new 12-inch main in Albany Park on June 18, 2019. Peoples Gas is undergoing a massive underground overhaul of its residential natural gas pipe system.

Peoples Gas crew work on installing a new 12-inch main in Albany Park on June 18, 2019. Peoples Gas is undergoing a massive underground overhaul of its residential natural gas pipe system.

Victor Hilitski/for the Sun-Times

Much has been published about the need to eliminate fossil fuels and develop a long-term strategy to help save our planet. The path to that future is critical, but we must make sure it is practical, especially here in Chicago.

The Gas Workers Union Local 18007 has safely installed and maintained Peoples Gas’ natural gas delivery system in the City of Chicago for nearly a century. Those of us in the utility industry understand the tremendous responsibility we have to safely and reliably deliver life-sustaining energy products.

For our membership, it is our life’s work. They have first-hand knowledge of the need to continue the modernization of the underground natural gas distribution system. Much of the underground system is old and in need of replacement and we see it every day.

The project to replace 2,000 miles of old piping work has been ongoing for more than a decade and today the project is one-third complete.

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Some call for the project to be stopped in view of anticipated movement to green energy sources. However, we must be realistic. An alternative energy source for the 878,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in Chicago is likely decades away. Swapping out the millions of appliances and industrial processes that today use natural gas will be a monumental long-term task, costing billions.

Natural gas, while a fossil fuel, is environmentally friendly. It is clean-burning and abundant in the U.S. It is available 365 days a year even when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Continuing to modernize the natural gas system in Chicago will ensure leaks are eliminated and not a contributor to greenhouse gases. It will also enable the system to potentially be used for other emerging alternative, environmentally-friendly energy sources such as renewable natural gas and hydrogen.

Around a decade ago, the state legislature and governor agreed the modernization work was critical to ensuring the safety of all who live, work or visit Chicago and passed legislation incentivizing the project. From our membership’s front row viewpoint, these realities have not changed. We urge all involved stakeholders to collaborate on a path to ensuring the work continues and the modernization project crosses the finish line.

Tim Jaroch, President, Local 18007, Gas Workers Union

Danny Davis hasn’t done enough for West Side

I have voted for U.S. Rep. Danny Davis in every election since 1996, and believe him to be a good man. My problem with Davis, however, is now harder than ever to overlook: West Side areas have been burned out, literally, and blighted since the riots after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968.

Why has he been unable to work with the federal, city and state government to get the funding to help rebuild this community? The people deserve more for their years of support than they have be given.

George Recchia, Oak Park

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