The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) last week asked Illinois state regulators to act on a series of proposed measures to help consumers cope with the exorbitant heating bills predicted for this winter, and in the future. In a letter to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), CUB urged the agency to coordinate several short-term and long-term actions to assist natural gas customers.
"There are no simple solutions to the skyrocketing natural gas prices, but the greatest sin is inaction," said David Kolata, CUB executive director. "The ICC should work with consumer groups, government and community leaders, and the utilities to do whatever it can to provide relief to all Illinois families who have to pay these high heating bills."
The utility watchdog said gas prices throughout the state already are at record levels and about 56% higher, on average, than last year. Prices are expected to increase even more during the coming winter months. CUB noted that natural gas prices are averaging about $1.14 per therm in November, surpassing the prices seen during the record-setting winter of 2000-2001.
CUB's short-term recommendations to the ICC include the following:
Long-term measures recommended by CUB include:
"Taken together, these proposed actions could provide worthwhile relief to consumers," Kolata said. "However, the recommendations should not be considered an end, but a beginning to a sincere discussion among all parties as to what other creative steps could be taken to help Illinois consumers who year after year find themselves at the mercy of a volatile natural gas market."
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