WBEZ | CUB http://www.wbez.org/tags/cub Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Morning Shift: How can the Web be a better and safer place? http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-23/morning-shift-how-can-web-be-better-and-safer-place <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Internet-Flickr-Asimetrica Juniper.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Web and social media can be used to spark positive, social chance. But it can also be plagued by bullies and trolls intent on bringing you down. We talk pros and cons of the Web and strategies to make it a safer place.</p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-dennis-farina-aldermanic-privilege-a.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-dennis-farina-aldermanic-privilege-a" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: How can the Web be a better and safer place? " on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Tue, 23 Jul 2013 08:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-23/morning-shift-how-can-web-be-better-and-safer-place CUB: Illinois residents waste $1.4B on data plans http://www.wbez.org/sections/media/cub-illinois-residents-waste-14b-data-plans-107750 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/flickr_cellphones_Phil Roeder.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A consumer advocacy group says Illinois residents are wasting as much as $1.4 billion a year by signing up for the wrong cellphone data plan.</p><p>The Citizens Utility Board says Tuesday that the average Illinois resident is overpaying for their smartphone&#39;s data plan by about $194 a year, buying access to more data than they actually need.</p><p>CUB&#39;s executive director says people often don&#39;t realize how much data they use and overpay.</p><p>The figures, which CUB released along with wireless industry research firm Validas, show only a small percentage of smartphone users ever incur &quot;overages&quot; for using more data than their plan allows.</p><p>Research released this month by the Pew Internet &amp; American Life project shows 91 percent of Americans own a cellphone, and 56 percent have a smartphone.</p></p> Tue, 18 Jun 2013 12:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/media/cub-illinois-residents-waste-14b-data-plans-107750 Utility group warns of Chicago-area gas rate increase http://www.wbez.org/news/utility-group-warns-chicago-area-gas-rate-increase-106297 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/CUB_130326_sk.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>A utility watchdog group says a <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/98/SB/PDF/09800SB1665.pdf">proposed state bill</a> could raise some Chicago-area gas utility rates.</p><p>The legislation would let some utility companies recover the money used in a ten-year program to modernize local gas pipelines.</p><p>But David Kolata, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, calls it a &ldquo;trojan horse&rdquo; that would allow companies to boost rates over the next decade.</p><p>&ldquo;Currently, gas utilities must prove they need rate hikes before the Illinois Commerce Commission. What this bill would do is essentially leapfrog that process and give gas utilities a blank check &mdash; yearly, automatic rate increases that guarantee an excessive profit rate,&rdquo; Kolata said at a news conference Tuesday.</p><p>Local natural gas supplier Peoples Gas refutes that claim, saying the bill creates a safer gas infrastructure and protects jobs, while still including the ICC in the rate-setting process.</p><p>&ldquo;This bill [...] would bring Illinois&rsquo; regulatory framework into the 21st century and allow for investments enhancing the safety and reliability of our state&rsquo;s natural gas infrastructure,&rdquo; Peoples Gas said in a statement.</p><p>Company spokesperson Kathy Hartman said in a phone interview Tuesday the company is projecting an average monthly gas utility rate increase of $2.25 per year for its customers if the legislation passes and the ten-year modernization project begins. She said these increases are &ldquo;necessary to support the modernization of the system.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Meanwhile, Hartman said Peoples Gas has similar projects planned in Chicago&rsquo;s Portage Park, Austin, and South Shore neighborhoods in 2013.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s...a plan over the next ten years to address a number of areas across the city,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Two versions of the measure are currently in the Illinois House and Senate. Neither of the bodies have yet to formally vote on the legislation.</p></p> Tue, 26 Mar 2013 17:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/utility-group-warns-chicago-area-gas-rate-increase-106297 ComEd: Smart grid could save customers $2.8 billion http://www.wbez.org/story/comed-smart-grid-could-save-customers-28-billion-90278 <p><p>Commonwealth Edison says smart grid technology could save customers more than $2.8 billion dollars over the next 20 years. ComEd released an analysis Monday from Black &amp; Veatch that puts the cost of installing smart grid as less than or equal to the savings.</p><p>Mike McMahan, Vice President of Smart Grid and Technology for ComEd, said a rate hike of $3 per customer would cover the cost of the technology, and it would be made up soon after the smart grid was installed.&nbsp;</p><p>"We estimate at least $2 of that would be returned to the customer on their bills at the end of the deployment period and there would be an additional $1 in savings associated with fewer outages. So benefit to the consumer that doesn't pass through the utility," he said.</p><p>McMahan said the savings identified in the analysis would come from three major changes. First, the smart grid technology would eliminate manual meter reading, and thus meter reading jobs, because the smart meters would send information directly to ComEd. This would also mean, according to ComEd, more accurate bills and fewer service visits. Secondly, McMahan said smart meters would detect electricity theft and therefore cut down on energy losses. Lastly, McMahan said the new technology would bring enhanced disconnection and reconnection of services, minimizing collection costs during storms, power outages or even when a renter is ending their ComEd service.</p><p>Yet all of this rests on the signature of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. Earlier this year, legislators in Springfield passed the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act that would authorize rate hikes for both ComEd and Ameren customers that would foot the smart grid bill. Quinn has said he would not sign the measure, as he wants power companies, rather than consumers, to pay for smart grid.</p><p>The bill also doesn't sit well with members of the Citizens Utility Board. Executive Director David Kolata said he supports installing smart grid, but he doesn't think this bill is the way to do it.</p><p>"I think this analysis is further evidence that smart grid would be good investment for consumers -- we do think it's something that will save consumers money in medium and long term," Kolata said. "It's the other parts, though, that are problematic. You have to make sure you get those right. It's serving as Trojan horse for significant regulatory changes that apply to all ComEd's costs -- if it was just smart grid, it would have passed already."</p><p>The bill is currently on Governor Quinn's desk.</p></p> Mon, 08 Aug 2011 21:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/comed-smart-grid-could-save-customers-28-billion-90278 New EPA standards could hit Illinoisans' wallets http://www.wbez.org/story/new-epa-standards-could-hit-illinoisans-wallets-88911 <p><p>The United States Environmental Protection Agency has set new standards for power plants that could affect Illinois residents' walllets. The new Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is an attempt by the EPA to improve air quality by requiring plants to install or upgrade pollution control equiptment.</p><p>Phil Gonet, president of the Illinois Coal Association, said the new rules will come with a cost.</p><p>"Well, it's gonna have a negative impact on consumers, I mean this pollution control equipment is not cheap -- and I don't think EPA recognizes that when they impose these rules," Gonet said. "I mean, consumers are gonna pay higher costs of electricity."<br> <br> Dave Kolata, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, disagrees. He said Illinois residents won't see a rate hike in the short term. If anything, he said residents might see an increase further down the road, but only if other energy saving policies aren't put into place.<br> <br> The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is a replacement of the 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordered EPA to revise the CAIR in 2008. The EPA estimates the new standards will cost $800 million annually after 2014, in addition to the $1.6 billion per year in capital investments from CAIR.</p><p>The new standards will be implemented in 28 states by 2012. The EPA estimates that these changes will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent and nitrogen dioxide emissions by 54 percent from 2005 levels.</p></p> Fri, 08 Jul 2011 20:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/new-epa-standards-could-hit-illinoisans-wallets-88911 CUB report: ComEd customers could be overpaying by $189 million http://www.wbez.org/story/cub-report-comed-customers-could-be-overpaying-189-million-87838 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-May/2011-05-30/71475109.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Commonwealth Edison customers could be overpaying by $189 million dollars. That's according to a <a href="http://www.citizensutilityboard.org/newsReleases20110614_CUBEnergySaver.html">study </a>released Tuesday by the Citizens Utility Board.</p><p>"I think the report we released is good news and bad news," said David Kolata, CUB executive director. "The bad news is it does suggest that a lot of us are overpaying. The good news is by taking very simple steps you can save a lot of money."</p><p>The report, entitled "Making Every Kilowatt Hour Count," analyzes CUB's new Energy Saver initiative. The program began last year and sends ComEd customers tips for energy conservation. The 11,682 customers who use the program saved an average of 5.5 percent off their electric bills this year, according to CUB.</p><p>Some of the tips CUB reccomends are replacing lights with compact florescent light bulbs, using blinds during the summer, washing larger loads of dishes and turning off the coffee maker after brewing.</p><p>The report comes just weeks after the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation that would allow ComEd to raise rates and charge an extra $156 million dollars a year. Governor Pat Quinn is vowing to veto the measure.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 14 Jun 2011 19:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/cub-report-comed-customers-could-be-overpaying-189-million-87838 Attorney General and CUB warn consumers about Nicor Gas's "ComfortGuard" service http://www.wbez.org/story/attorney-general/attorney-general-and-cub-warn-consumers-about-nicor-gass-comfortguard-service <p><p>The Citizens Utility Board and the Illinois Attorney General are warning Nicor Gas customers about a service they call &quot;overpriced and rarely used.&quot;<br /><br />Nicor offers the so-called Gas Line ComfortGuard for the inspection and repair of potential gas leaks inside homes.<br /><br />CUB Executive Director David Kolata said more than than 400,000 people are enrolled in the program, which costs $4.95 a month, &quot;but only 2 percent of customers covered by ComfortGuard ever needed their pipes repaired, so the program is guarding against problems that almost never occur.&quot;</p><p>And Kolata said an average repair costs consumers less than what they pay for ComfortGuard annually. He said the the average cost of a repair for a non-ComfortGuard customer in 2009 was $47, compared to ComfortGuard's $59.40 annual price tag.</p><p>The ComfortGuard service covers in-home repairs up to $600 per incident.&nbsp;But Kolata said less than 3 percent of gas-leak repairs made by Nicor for non-ComfortGuard customers were more than $100.</p><p>In a statement, Attorney General Lisa Madigan said, &quot;Nicor's ComfortGuard service does not live up to marketing promises that it will save money for consumers. Consumers looking for comfort should carefully review their gas bills to determine whether they really need to pay an extra $4.95 a month.&quot;</p><p>Nicor is legally obligated to investigate reports of gas leaks and, if necessary, shut off the gas for free.</p><p>CUB and the Attorney General's office are urging the Illinois Commerce Commission to consider Nicor's profits from the service as utility revenue. That could mean Nicor could be required to lower the cost of gas for consumers.</p><p>In a statment, Nicor said it disagrees with CUB's claims. They say the Gas Line ComfortGuard protects the safety of its customers at a great value.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 23 Nov 2010 19:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/attorney-general/attorney-general-and-cub-warn-consumers-about-nicor-gass-comfortguard-service