"oversight by our City Council is necessary to avoid corruption on the contract”
Citizens Group Asks Mayor on Electricity Ordinance: "Why so fast?"
The grassroots watchdog group, Illinois Citizens to Protect the Public Commons (ICPPC) takes issue with the Mayor's rush to push through the city ordinance on electrical aggregation that would set the parameters of contracts for electricity purchased by the city. The group maintains that the ordinance, codifying the referendum, which passed on November 6 after a rushed publicity campaign by City Hall touting big cost savings for consumers, should have been open to thorough examination by the City Council and the public. Only an ordinance with sufficient oversight, citizen input and accountability will serve the city and its people in the long term and avoid repetitions of the parking meter fiasco, ICPPC maintains.
The electricity aggregation referendum which passed on November 6, authorizes the city to negotiate the electricity purchase for those Chicago residents and businesses who do not opt out of the arrangement. However, the referendum did not specify what governmental body of the city would have the authority to negotiate with the energy providers. The draft ordinance submitted last week by the Mayor provided that the Mayor or his delegate agents would have the sole authority to negotiate with the city's power supplier, an unacceptable power overreach according to members of ICPPC.
Under pressure from a group of concerned aldermen amendments are promised that would provide more oversight and transparency. Clare Tobin, a member of the group observed, "These aldermen deserve our thanks for standing up for the public interest and persisting in advancing these amendments." Some of these amendments were discussed at a Finance Committee meeting Wednesday, December 5. One proposed amendment to the Mayor's draft ordinance would require City Council approval of all future contracts for electricity. ICPPC concurs that oversight by our City Council is necessary to avoid corruption on the contract that will govern the selection and management of power for the electricity of the majority of Chicago residents.
At the December 10, Monday, meeting of the Finance Committee, aldermen were presented with a copy of the proposed contract with a unit of Integrys Energy Group, Inc. However, the amended Ordinance governing the electricity aggregation contracts has not yet been voted on and the revised Ordinance is not scheduled to be presented to the aldermen until Tuesday. ICPPC asks, "Why the rush? This is backwards. We should have an Ordinance in place first and there should be public hearings and public education on the contract."
ICPPC, along with other groups which testified at Tuesdays Finance Committee hearing, such as Green Power Coalition and Greenpeace, congratulates the decision to eliminate coal from the mix of sources of electricity for the city. However, ICPPC notes that in general natural gas will be replacing coal in the proposed mix. Some 30% or so of natural gas on the market is estimated to be from fracked gas, which is a serious pollutant. Fracked gas, derived from high pressure hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is "the new coal," the group maintains. Fracking has been shown to contaminate aquifers, poison wells, ruin agricultural land, and seriously harm humans, animals and plants. Each fracked well contaminates millions of gallons of water and removes that water from future use. Fracking releases methane gas into the environment and is a significant contributor to global warming. ICPPC urges the city to move away from fracked gas as quickly as possible.
The Revised Draft Plan of Governance does not specify what percentage of electricity would be purchased from renewable energy sources. This amounts to only a “maybe” commitment by the City or Integrys Energy Group. ICPPC urges the aldemen to insist on a binding commitment before voting on the ordinance. Currently renewables represent only 3% of electricity supplied by ComEd. Aldermen should require increasing this to at least 6% the first year and increasing the percentage in the second year, the group maintains.
The group urges the City Council to:
1) Include a specific commitment to include a 6% renewables in the Plan of Governance.
2) Create and honor a timetable for a steady move to an increased percentage of electricity from wind and
solar, phasing out energy from nuclear sources and from fracking.
3) Schedule public hearings, such as those held in other cities with adequate notifications for each contract.
4) Provide one week’s notice of final text of all ordinances and contracts to aldermen and the public in a
timely and transparent fashion before requiring a final vote..
5) Include a provision that would allow customers to choose energy 100% from renewable sources if they
agree to pay the additional amount to cover the extra cost.
6) Give the Chicago Inspector General authority to bar the participation of any and all persons, whether city
officials or delegated agents, in the drafting, proposing, amending or approval of any contract pursuant to this ordinance, with a conflict of interest.
ICPPC also calls on Springfield to fix the Renewable (Energy) Portfolio Standard (RPS) in IL, which at the present time is complicated and, instead of encouraging renewable energy development in Illinois, actually discourages investments in new renewable energy. The group maintains that we need an RPS fund for renewables to be collected from a compliance charge on the power bill of every single utility customer via Com Ed and Ameren. This money would be channeled into a single common fund to be used for contracting with new renewable power sources and for encouraging the development of green energy sources.
The revised ordinance is scheduled to be presented to the Finance Committee on Tuesday December 11, at 1 p.m. and is planned to be voted on by the full City Council on Wednesday, December 12th. ICPPC urges citizens to do their homework and keep tabs on the ordinance at:
and then attend the meetings in person. Meetings begin at 10:00 am in the City Council chambers, 2nd floor, City Hall side of the County/City Building at 121 N. LaSalle.
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