Our Pledge To You

News

For the price of coffee, you’re getting new gas pipelines: Peoples Gas

Jimmy Ilippoulous, a worker with Peoples Gas union Local 18007, works on the utility’s gas main replacement project. | Submitted photo

A worker with Peoples Gas union Local 18007 works on the utility's gas main replacement project. | Submitted photo

Last September, the failure of an aging natural gas distribution system sparked a series of explosions outside Boston that killed one person, injured 21 others, damaged or destroyed about 60 homes and forced more than 30,000 people to evacuate their homes. The incident caused billions of dollars in destruction.

So why did a recent Sun-Times editorial (March 4) argue Peoples Gas should scale back system upgrades that could prevent a similar disaster from occurring here?

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com. Please include your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes.

As the Sun-Times correctly noted, Peoples Gas residential heating customers paid about $6 per month in 2018 to fund the company’s System Modernization Program. That’s about the cost of two cups of coffee.

Peoples Gas launched SMP in 2011 in response to a call to action by the federal government urging utilities with aging systems to accelerate pipeline repair and replacement. The call to action came following a natural gas explosion in San Bruno, California that killed eight people, injured 58 and destroyed 38 homes.

Since then, there has been great progress. Utilities in 34 states and the District of Columbia now have government-approved programs in place to fund the accelerated replacement of aging natural gas infrastructure.

In Chicago, Peoples Gas is in the midst of a multi-decade effort to replace 2,000 miles of rusted cast iron pipes — some installed before the Civil War — with modern plastic piping that will not corrode. At the same time, we are upgrading our system to medium-pressure to allow for the use of safety shut-off valves in the street and on gas meters to dramatically reduce the chance of explosion or fire.

We’re also moving gas meters to the outside of homes and businesses so first responders can access them faster in emergencies and customers don’t have to be home for inspection or service appointments. Since 2011, Peoples Gas has installed:

• 300,000 explosion prevention devices
• 937 miles of modern gas main
• 77,400 service lines
• 155,400 outdoor natural gas meters

SMP already has significantly reduced natural gas leaks in Chicago. It also has fueled our local economy by creating 2,000 jobs during peak construction season and a training program that has resulted in the hiring of 400 military veterans.

You have to admit, that’s a pretty strong record for the price of a couple cups of coffee per month. Let’s keep working to build the kind of safe, modern natural gas delivery system that Chicagoans deserve.

Charles Matthews, president and CEO, Peoples Gas