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The Attack on Natural Gas

Brothers and Sisters of Local 18007


Natural Gas is under attack on several fronts. But, your Union Board is fighting back.


In November, the Illinois Commerce Commission issued an Order that basically gutted the Company’s rate case request. First, the Commission ruled that the SMP project should be paused pending an “investigation” into the Company’s methods for replacing main that the outside experts agree has less than a 15-year life left. For us this means that much of the SMP work which the Company had planned to spend upwards of $265M for 2024 is in question. The Company filed for a rehearing to continue the uncompleted 2023 work and perform critical 2024 work, and we will continue to intervene as appropriate to protect our membership’s interests. The process of the rehearing should be complete sometime in May. We also have filed to intervene in the SMP investigation which could take up to 12 months to complete which means we may not know more on the future of the SMP program until early 2025.


Second, in the rate case, the ICC disallowed recovery of the costs of the shop upgrades/replacements. Here again, the Commission is taking an adversarial position against upgrading the miserable, unsafe and antiquated work locations our members report to and work in daily. South Shop was built many decades ago and needs to be replaced.


However, the Commission did not stop there. They also ordered a “Future of Gas” proceeding to take place. While the exact nature of this separate docket is unknown, it is anticipated that this proceeding will look at charting a path for replacing natural gas with electricity. It is apparent that the electric grid—even by ComEd’s own admissions--is not ready to handle the extra load of moving gas customers to all electric and won’t be for decades. Even if it was, how can Chicago’s utility customers handle the conversion costs of moving from gas to electric and the added monthly expense of electricity vs gas. Your Union will be actively fighting those who believe electrification can happen overnight.


If all of this ICC misguided effort wasn’t enough, a group of Chicago Alder-persons is pushing an ordinance to ban natural gas in new construction and rehab projects. We are actively working with Alderman Villegas as well as the Clean Energy Choice Coalition to push back on this effort.

We believe the bottom line is that, in the meantime, the natural gas distribution system must be maintained and replaced for the many decades it will take to electrify customers’ energy needs if electrification is the most prudent course of action for all our futures. There are promising technological advances regarding hydrogen and renewable natural gas that are on the horizon and make a valid case for keeping the natural gas distribution system in working order.

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