The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Chicago:
Gas shutoffs for non-payment

Apr 23, 2001

Over 14,000 households in the city of Chicago are having their gas shut off by Peoples Gas. The law says the company can't cut off gas for non-payment of bills until April 1. Over the last year, the price of gas increased to three times what it was the year before, making it extremely hard for many people to pay their bills. As a response to protests, the company delayed the shutoffs until the middle of April.

Peoples Gas claims that people who make some arrangements for paying aren't cut off. But the experience of people who did make partial payments was they received letters threatening to disconnect them if they didn't pay up.

To make matters worse, a new automatic meter reading system sent out, incorrectly, enormous bills to many people. Some people got bills for $5,000 or $6,000 for one month. When they called to protest, they had to wait forever on the phone. In some cases, they couldn't get through at all.

Chicago is not the only city with utility shutoffs this year. In 18 states alone, nearly 4 million households could be cut off.

Last winter's skyrocketing gas prices resulted in double the profits for the big gas producers –the giant oil companies, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron and Texaco; tens of millions of dollars in profits for Peoples Gas, and gas shutoffs for thousands of poor Chicagoans.