Testimony highlights inequitable energy practices in Illinois gas-rate cases
Justin Schott (MS ’06), a University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) lecturer and project manager of the Energy Equity Project, recently served as an expert witness in two gas-rate cases in Illinois.
Schott testified before the Illinois Commerce Commission about rate hikes proposed by Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company and Ameren, two Illinois-based investor-owned utilities.
Schott’s testimony focused on how the rate hikes would disparately impact low-income customers in Chicago, most of whom are Black or Latinx and are subject to inequitable energy practices related to disconnection and reconnection.
Illinois consumer and environmental groups are seeking “restorative justice” in the cases, which calls for investments in energy efficiency and electrification for low-income customers.
“Black and Latinx households in Chicago face discrimination from their natural gas utility, Peoples Gas,” Schott said. “Even among neighborhoods of similar incomes, households in majority Black and Latinx neighborhoods are having their gas shut off 75% more often than households in majority white neighborhoods and are 20% less likely to be reconnected.
“This disparity is the result of unequal treatment of households facing the same economic conditions. Utilities in Illinois have been required to submit monthly reports on shutoffs and other energy insecurity metrics by ZIP code since 2020, which has helped illuminate the problem. I was shocked to see what the data show and felt it was critical to get this evidence of environmental racism on the record.”
Schott gave his testimony on behalf of four public interest organizations: the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Illinois State Public Interest Research Group.
The gas-rate cases are ongoing. If approved, the rate hikes will take effect in 2024.