Illinois Regulators Approve Report on Condition of Chicago Gas Distribution Network

An extensive independent study that found the Peoples Gas program to replace aging natural gas pipes will increase public and customer safety has been approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). The approval came after nine months of staff review and input from consumer advocates and environmental groups. 

The study by Kiefner and Associates, an international engineering firm, found that more than 80% of the iron pipes in the Peoples Gas delivery system have an average remaining life of less than 15 years. The study also found that by replacing Chicago's aging gas system, the company's System Modernization Program (SMP) will significantly reduce risks in Chicago's natural gas delivery network.

"This independent study and the ICC's comprehensive analysis underscore the urgency of our System Modernization Program," said Charles Matthews, president and CEO of Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas.

Peoples Gas is replacing 2,000 miles of aging iron pipes, some as old as 150 years, with modern piping that does not rust or corrode. The upgrades improve safety and reliability and reduce methane emissions. SMP will be 30% complete by the end of 2020 and is scheduled to be fully completed by 2040.

"We've been able to keep these capital-intensive safety improvements moving forward as a result of an infrastructure rider approved by the Illinois General Assembly in 2013," Matthews said.

Peoples Gas launched its replacement program in 2011 in response to a call to action from the Obama administration by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. This call to action urged utilities with aging systems to accelerate pipeline repair and replacement.

The federal directive followed a natural gas explosion in San Bruno, Calif., that killed eight people, injured 58 and destroyed 38 homes. Since then, gas pipeline explosions in Pennsylvania, Texas, New York, Massachusetts and, most recently, Maryland have resulted in the loss of dozens of lives and significant property damage. 

In addition to accepting the conclusions of the independent Kiefner study, the ICC requested that Peoples Gas increase reporting and updates to the ICC and provide a cost/benefit analysis for possible additional leak detection. 

Kiefner presented its study of the Peoples Gas delivery system to the ICC in January 2020. Since 2013, Peoples Gas has installed more than 758 miles of modern gas main, 70,492 service lines, 165,133 outdoor natural gas meters and 242,345 explosion prevention devices as part of its work on the SMP.

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