By Paul Gorski
The Illinois Citizens Utility Board (CUB) was created in 1983 as a non-partisan watchdog group that gives consumers a say in controlling gas, electric and telephone rates. From the CUB website (http://www.citizensutilityboard.org/mission.html): “CUB challenges utility rate increases, fights for rate reductions and refunds of overcharges, and appeals unfair regulatory decisions in the courts. CUB also promotes tougher consumer protection laws in the state legislature, where rules governing the utilities are written, and publishes consumer, education materials. CUB also is working to ensure that the introduction of competition into the utility industry will provide real benefits for real people, and not just added headaches and hassles.”
CUB recently announced that through the efforts of Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s (D) office, CUB and other consumer advocates, ComEd was ordered to issue $46 million in refunds to consumers. The refunds were the result of successful challenges to a 2007 rate increase and a later, smart-grid pilot program surcharge. This is just one victory.
In 2013, CUB helped win a $72 million refund for Nicor Gas customers, pushed for a $45 million Ameren electric rate cut, and helped cut a Peoples/North Shore gas hike to the tune of $43 million. You will find these and more successful refund and rate hike cut efforts at http://www.citizensutilityboard.org.
We have in large part our Gov. Pat Quinn (D) to thank for these cost savings and utility rate cuts, as he was a key player in getting the Illinois legislature to create CUB in the early 1980s. CUB might not be here today, and consumers short-changed billions of dollars, if it were not for the efforts of the young tax attorney and consumer advocate Pat Quinn. Thank you, Gov. Quinn. However, I digress, CUB has grown since then.
CUB today not only works for refunds and rate reductions, it works directly with consumers through workshops and a consumer hotline, 1-800-669-5556, to save you money, offering advice on cutting your utility bills. Some of these tips are listed at http://www.citizensutilityboard.org/ConsumerTips.html.
State Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, recently organized a successful CUB utility bill clinic where CUB consumer advisers offered one-on-one reviews of personal phone and utility bills. Read this article for details about that event: “Area residents praise Steve Stadelman’s CUB utility bill clinic,” posted Aug. 11 at http://rockrivertimes.com/2014/08/11/area-residents-praise-steve-stadlemans-cub-utility-bill-clinic/.
CUB board members are not nameless, faceless bureaucrats, either: CUB board members are elected volunteers from congressional districts within the state. Residents throughout the state join CUB, paying a small tax-deductible donation. This small donation helps support CUB and allows you the opportunity to vote for local CUB board members. You could even be a future CUB board member.
CUB was created by Illinois residents, for Illinois residents, with the goal of saving us all money. To date, having just celebrated its 30th birthday, CUB has helped Illinois residents save nearly $10 billion. Happy birthday, CUB, you are a successful grassroots movement.
Paul Gorski (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.
From the Oct. 8-14, 2014, issue