The Illinois Commerce Commission is set to vote on Nicor’s controversial request for a $321 million increase, which the utility said will help modernize its system and meet rising energy prices.
But the outcome is uncertain, as the ICC has several new members, Citizens Utility Board officials said.
“We’re on pins and needles,” CUB Communications Director Jim Chilsen said. “This company does not need what would be the highest rate hike in its history.”
CUB and other advocates are appealing to the ICC to reduce Nicor’s request by about $132 million.
However, “any request to increase rates is not made without careful consideration of the impact to customers,” Nicor Media Relations Manager Jennifer Golz said. “This rate increase is necessary to run our business due to inflation and rising global impacts that continue to affect our operating and maintenance costs.
“Even with the proposed increase, Nicor Gas’ distribution rates will remain among the lowest of any major natural gas utility in Illinois,” Golz said.
The rate boost would cause an almost 10.9% impact – $9.28 a month – for the average household.
“If they’re saying that is not a significant impact to their customers, then they’re not in touch with their customers,” Chilsen said.
Numerous homeowners posted comments on the ICC’s website, saying they couldn’t afford higher natural gas rates and begging regulators to deny the request.
“I am a senior citizen living on a fixed income and I am absolutely opposed to any more rate increases on my gas bill. It is totally unfair,” one customer wrote.
Golz said, “This rate request will support critical investments such as the Dubuque Line Main Replacement Project that will replace sections of steel pipeline from 1959.” Other improvements include modernizing Nicor’s storage system for its natural gas reserve.
Financial assistance is available at nicorgas.com/residential/billingandpaymentoptions/energy-assistance-programs or (888) 642- 6748, she advised.
Nicor has won three rate hikes since 2018 that raised charges by about 80%, or $500 million, CUB officials said.
“In that same five-year period, Nicor’s parent company, Southern Co., has raked in $16 billion in profits,” Chilsen said.
Nicor serves more than 2.3 million customers across the state, including in Lake, McHenry, Cook, DuPage, Kane, Will, Kendall, Grundy, La Salle, DeKalb, Ogle, Lee, Whiteside, Carroll and Bureau counties.
On Thursday, the ICC also is scheduled to decide on a proposal from People’s Gas to raise rates for Chicagoans.