Illinois needs more oversight of natural gas utilities

We should enforce equitable consumer protections on every regulated energy monopoly operating in the state, regardless of the energy type that they deliver.

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A Peoples Gas crew installs a new 12-inch main in Albany Park in June 2019.

A Peoples Gas crew installs a new 12-inch main in Albany Park in June 2019.

Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times

Recently, Gov. J.B. Pritzker wrote an opinion piece on the need for legislation that would make natural gas utilities more accountable to Illinoisans by increasing oversight of their spending on financially risky infrastructure projects. He’s right.

For too long, gas utility system investments have been left entirely up to the gas utilities themselves, which have strong financial incentives to grow indefinitely. This means spending billions and billions of customers’ dollars — via some of the highest fixed charges on our monthly bills in the country — on pipelines that might soon be made obsolete because of high-performing, high-efficiency electric appliances for home and water heating.

The energy transition is driving a major shift in the way we power our homes, businesses and schools. As more Illinoisans choose to retrofit their indoor spaces with clean technologies like heat pumps, heat pump water heaters and electric stoves, these people will likely cease being customers of gas utilities. As a result, gas bills for those who don’t make the switch early to all-electric appliances — or can’t, due to the up-front cost — are likely to experience higher bills as there are fewer gas customers left to pay off all of that brand-new pipeline infrastructure.

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The only way to mitigate this problem is to plan for it. The first step is to start regulating gas utilities the way we already regulate electric utilities. We should require long-term system planning requirements, aggressive energy efficiency goals, financial incentives and penalties that align with our decarbonization goals. We should enforce equitable consumer protections on every regulated energy monopoly operating in the state, regardless of the energy type that they deliver.

We hope the legislature is ready for the challenge of aligning our gas utility laws with our state’s ambitious decarbonization and energy affordability goals, just as they were ready in 2021 to transform the electricity sector for the better. A transition plan cannot wait.

Samarth Medakkar, policy principal, Advanced Energy United

Public financing of elections could help U.S. fight climate change

Earth is approaching and is likely to cross the critical threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels within the next decade, according to a report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, unless stronger action is taken against climate change.

Scientists say that beyond this 1.5 degrees, heat waves, flooding, drought, crop failures and species extinction become significantly harder for humanity to handle.

The U.S. could become the world leader in the battle against climate change setting an example and inspiring and helping other countries to do more while creating millions of jobs worldwide.

However, this is difficult with complete Republican opposition. Oil companies continue to contribute millions of dollars to Republicans in lockstep with them even though Exxon’s climate scientists for decades have accurately predicted climate change. These companies place profits even above the planet’s habitability as they contribute millions to make billions.

If public funding of election campaigns replaced contributions by special interests, it would be much more likely that government decisions would be based on fair debate and merit.

Richard Barsanti, Western Springs

Casten’s agenda

I have to take issue with Sean Casten’s op-ed on democracy in Tuesday’s edition of the Sun-Times. Casten is espousing the ultra-liberal agenda and wants to achieve it by ignoring the Constitution and law. He wants the ultra-liberal agenda that exists and has ruined Illinois to exist in the U.S. Maybe HE should focus on correcting the real issues in this country that the ultra-liberal faction ignore.

Also, Casten does not want input from his constituents. I have phoned and e-mailed his office and have never received a response. I know that I am not the only one.

I doubt if the Sun-Times will print this response because they back the ultra-liberal agenda of Casten. Sorry for the overused term ultra-liberal but I learned it from President Joe Biden.

Joe Revane, Lombard

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