CHICAGO — A hearing was held on Monday morning by a Chicago City Council committee to discuss a recently requested rate hike by Peoples Gas.

Representatives from the Peoples Gas and consumer advocates appeared before the Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy as it sought an explanation on why the utility provider has requested the rate hike after six years of record profits. 

According to Ald. Bill Conway (34th Ward), who introduced the resolution, Peoples Gas requested that the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) approve a $402 million rate hike, which would result in residential gas bills climbing by about $11.83 per month. 

Conway said the natural gas utility’s parent company, WEC Energy Group, credited late fee revenue as the primary driver of yearly profit increases in a 2023 report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

According to the alderman, Peoples Gas provides gas to 884,000 customers in Chicago, and in 2022, it collected $32 million in late fees.

Conway alleges that the late fees disproportionately impact communities of color in the city. 

In the resolution, Conway said data provided by Peoples Gas to the ICC in April revealed that customers who resided primarily in Black and Brown communities on the City’s South and West sides were in the most debt to the utility provider.

“Peoples’ contract to serve as Chicago’s sole utility provider of heating and cooking gas predates the Civil War. Their monopoly status has allowed them to rake in record profits, and I’m troubled by their own admission that those profits have been driven by late fees which disproportionately impact communities of color,” Ald. Conway said in a press release about the hearing on Monday morning. 

Conway said the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) is expected to decide on the rate hike on Nov. 16.

Monday’s hearing got underway at City Hall at 10 a.m.