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Has your heating bill gone up? IL lawmakers want to hold utility companies accountable

Senate Bill 570 will bring an end to unnecessary gas heating bill hikes and restore traditional oversight to gas utilities.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — You shouldn't have to freeze to cut those high energy bill costs. Illinois lawmakers came together Monday morning, Jan. 31 in the hopes of solving the utility bill increase with Senate Bill 570.

"This winter, many are seeing sticker shock as they open their natural gas bills and their heating bills. Many are very very concerned with the rising costs to heat their homes," State Sen. Cristina Castro said.

Nine years ago, the Illinois legislature gave gas companies permission to charge customers more in order to make urgent safety-related repairs, which is called a "qualifying infrastructure plant." It is supposed to end on Dec. 31, 2023, however SB570 would change that end date to Jan. 1, 2022. 

The bill aims to bring transparency while holding utilities accountable and only addresses qualifying infrastructure plant charges. 

"This legislation will bring an end to unnecessary gas heating bill hikes and restore appropriate traditional oversight to gas utilities," State Rep. Joyce Mason said. "The utilities are now spending money on things like installing new meters and replacing perfectly safe pipes. We're all getting stuck with the bill." 

In the Quad Cities, there are three main providers: MidAmerican Energy, Ameren Illinois and Nicor Gas Co. These companies must have more than 700,000 Illinois customers in order to charge them with the qualifying infrastructure plant, according to Geoff Greenwood with MidAmerican. 

Greenwood said MidAmerican has never charged its customers with this. Ameren and Nicor Gas both have more than 700,000 Illinois customers. 

The images below show exactly what the charge would look like for Ameren and Nicor Gas customers. 

Credit: WQAD
The image above shows an example of Nicor Gas Co.'s gas bill.
Credit: WQAD
The image above is an example of what Ameren Illinois gas bills look like.

The spike in natural gas bills also raises the demand for utility assistance programs, like the government funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. 

RELATED: Here's how to apply for utility cost assistance in Iowa and Illinois

Project NOW, a Quad Cities community action agency, helps those struggling to pay their utility bills access monetary assistance.

"Last year, we (received) 8,000 applications. So far, we're over 6,000 already. We had anticipated 9,000 (in 2022)," Project NOW Community Service Director Ron Lund said. "We thought we would see a jump. We didn't think we would see this big of a jump."

Project NOW expects over 10,000 applications this year alone. 

"Don't kind of self-eliminate yourself by doing the math," Lund said. "Allow us to do it. The worst you're going to hear from us is a 'No, you're not eligible for the program.'"

Appointments are available to submit your application for utility assistance through Project NOW. For more information on how to apply for LIHEAP, visit their website here.

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