A small portion of that could go to build a job training center on the city’s West Side, the sources said.
A seven-member board overseeing the nonprofit will be made up of five appointees by the city and two by ComEd.
It’s unclear what specific projects the city has in mind, but possibilities include constructing electric-vehicle charging stations throughout the city, as well as solar power projects on vacant properties that could give participating household customers a break on their electric bills.
The deal would run for 15 years with an option to extend it for another five. If the city decided to do that, ComEd would pay another $20 million in shareholder funds.
A spokeswoman for the mayor had no immediate comment.
ComEd’s first franchise agreement with the city, which permits the utility access to city streets, both above and below, was reached in 1947. It’s been renewed only once—in 1992 by Richard M. Daley, then a relatively new mayor.
The agreement expired at the end of 2020, just as ComEd was reeling following its July 2020 admission of engaging in a nearly decade-long bribery scheme tied to winning the favor of then-House Speaker Michael Madigan. Some progressive aldermen expressed support for a city takeover of electricity distribution from ComEd and an end to shutoffs for non-payment, as well as increased promotion of clean energy.
The Lightfoot administration went so far as to issue a request for information from companies and other parties potentially interested in bidding on Chicago’s electricity franchise if an agreement couldn’t be reached with ComEd. But the city never followed up with a request for proposals and declined requests from reporters to release the names of those that responded to the RFI.
It’s been clear for nearly a year that ComEd would continue to serve the city and that the price for doing so was a significant commitment of shareholder dollars to achieving the city’s goals.
Franchise agreements in the past haven’t entailed significant shareholder contributions. ComEd charges a franchise fee, paid by ratepayers on their electric bills, and that money goes to the city. The fee, plus taxes, generated $187 million for the city in 2017.
While the franchise deal is on the front burner, the mayor’s team has decided not to go forward for now with a proposal to effectively ban the use of natural gas for heating and cooking in newly constructed buildings, sources say.
That measure, which had been tentatively slated for introduction on Wednesday, now will be delayed. Briefings with business interests and unions last week generated significant opposition. Peoples Gas, which serves the city, blasted the proposal last week.
Re-upping with ComEd isn’t likely to be much less controversial. The timing of the deal is likely to receive pushback from aldermen.
The establishment of a nonprofit to help meet the city’s own climate goals could take oversight of the initiative outside the city’s regular budgeting process, which must be approved by the City Council. Unless Lightfoot is able to fast track the ordinance through committee and by calling a second City Council meeting next month ahead of the Feb. 28 election, there’s also the possibility the 15-year agreement would need approval from a lame-duck City Council that will see heavy turnover in May. Lightfoot herself could miss out on an expected two-candidate April runoff in the mayor’s race.
ComEd continues as the city’s electricity provider in the absence of an agreement until the city decides on another course, so there’s not really a time pressure.
Additionally, the high-profile trial of former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore and three others on federal conspiracy charges tied to the bribery scheme begins in early March. The trial will run for up to two months, giving the public daily reminders of ComEd’s recent corruption.
ComEd admitted to the scheme under a deferred-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago in which the charges will be dismissed after three years if the utility continues to cooperate. Parent Exelon paid a $200 million fine as part of the DPA.
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January 29, 2023 at 05:29PM