ICC opens formal probe of Peoples Gas project

SHARE ICC opens formal probe of Peoples Gas project
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The Illinois Commerce Commission has opened a formal probe of Peoples Gas’ main replacement program. | Getty Images

The Illinois Commerce Commission voted Wednesday to open formal investigation into Peoples Gas’ project to replace aging gas mains in Chicago.

The commission said it will investigate whether Peoples Gas, Integrys Energy Group or Wisconsin Energy Co. “knowingly misrepresented facts or withheld information” about the long-term cost of the Accelerated Main Replacement Program.

An audit for the commission by Liberty Consulting Group found that the main replacement program could cost consumers $8 billion. Originally proposed in 2009, the project was to cost about $2.5 billion.

“The ICC will continue to aggressively oversee AMRP program reforms, and will ensure that customers do not bear any costs of program mismanagement,” Chairman Brien Sheahan said in a written statement.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan last week called for the commission to investigate the program.

The program “is in a complete state of disarray,” Madigan said. “The report documents the pervasive problems that are plaguing the program.”

Peoples recently merged with Wisconsin Energy Corp. but did not reveal the cost during that merger process, Madigan said.

In response to Madigan’s news conference, Peoples Gas agreed the project “needed a fresh start.”

“As soon as Wisconsin Energy acquired Peoples Gas, our new management team began to take aggressive actions to improve the oversight and performance of the project,” company spokeswoman Jennifer A. Block said in a statement.

The company is reviewing the project and pledged to give the ICC a report by Nov. 30.

Peoples supplies natural gas to about 800,000 customers.

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