For Release: 02/14/2013
Springfield, IL - In a move that could secure Illinois' energy future, the Senate today unveiled SB 1665 - the Natural Gas Modernization, Public Safety and Jobs Bill. If passed, the legislation would give Illinois utilities greater regulatory certainty and the ability to modernize the state’s natural gas distribution system, while ensuring the companies meet strict performance metrics and create jobs.
"Some of the gas mains beneath the streets of Chicago are as much as 150 years old," said Willard S. Evans, Jr., president of Peoples Gas. "The Natural Gas Modernization, Public Safety and Jobs Bill will allow Peoples Gas to invest in a more modern and reliable system - and bring our gas distribution into the 21st century."
"It would help the Illinois economy by allowing us to protect over 1,000 newly created local jobs while generating long-term savings for our customers," Evans added. "It will also deliver environmental benefits to Chicago and Illinois."
Peoples Gas recently launched a major investment program to upgrade Chicago’s natural gas infrastructure by replacing all higher-risk cast iron and ductile iron mains, as called for in federal recommendations. In 2011 and 2012, the utility installed nearly 300 miles of main, retired more than 140 miles of main, set more than 42,000 meters, and installed more than 23,000 services.
However, recent regulatory decisions have prevented the timely recovery of these infrastructure investments and threaten Peoples' ability to continue the project, according to Evans. "Illinois needs to overhaul its regulatory framework to allow for energy infrastructure investments, and this legislation does just that," said Evans. "This program is the right thing for our state, especially while natural gas is abundant and wholesale costs are low."
Senator Dave Koehler, the bill's sponsor, highlighted the legislation's impact on improved safety and reliability.
"Some of Illinois' natural gas distribution systems are so old that they are threatening to become unsafe and unreliable," said Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria), the sponsor of Senate Bill 1665. "This legislation will allow the state's natural gas distribution companies to replace old cast iron gas mains with safer, more modern materials that will help prevent gas leaking into the environment. It also will move gas meters to the outside of buildings, making it easier for firefighters to shut off gas lines during emergencies."
The state's major labor unions support the legislation:
"Illinois needs to preserve the thousands of jobs created by the gas main work and many of the Gas Workers, Local 18007 jobs inherited by the project represent long-term career opportunities," said Richard Passarelli, business manager of the Gas Workers Union, Local 18007, UWUA. "Without this legislation, our state would risk hurting the hardworking men and women from Local 18007 and the consumers who rely on them."
The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has urged state regulators and natural gas system operators to accelerate cast and ductile iron pipeline replacement programs, due to the age and degrading nature of this higher-risk material. Illinois currently ranks among the top 10 states with the most cast or ductile iron distribution main mileage, according to a 2011 PHMSA survey.
About Peoples Gas
Peoples Gas, a subsidiary of Integrys Energy Group, Inc. (NYSE: TEG), is a regulated natural gas delivery company that serves approximately 826,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in the city of Chicago. For more information about Peoples Gas, visit the companys's website: www.peoplesgasdelivery.com