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January 3, 2001

Ryan Takes Action to Help Illinoisans Cope With Rising Home Heating Costs
Calls for investigation into recent natural gas price surge; Establishes regional meetings to highlight assistance available to consumers; Pushes legislation to expand LIHEAP

WASHINGTON, DC -- Governor George H. Ryan today took action aimed at helping Illinois consumers deal with higher home heating costs. In an effort to address the continuing increase in natural gas prices, Ryan announced a number of steps his administration will take on behalf of Illinois consumers.

In Executive Order #2, Ryan created the state's first-ever Energy Cabinet. The Energy Cabinet will be charged with coordinating and handling key energy-related issues, and will be co-chaired by the Governor's Senior Advisor on Environment and Natural Resources and Senior Advisor on Regulatory Affairs.

The Energy Cabinet will be comprised of key members of Ryan's Cabinet, including the Chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission, and Directors of the Department of Nuclear Safety, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture.

"Recent developments and volatility in the energy market experienced by the citizens of this State and nationally demonstrate an immediate need to create a framework for handling energy-related issues in the most effective manner." Ryan stated. "The very serious impact of high natural gas prices on the Illinois consumer deserves a strong and coordinated response from my Administration."

Ryan announced that the first issue to be handled by his Energy Cabinet will be the high natural gas prices. "Today, as the first action of my newly created Energy Cabinet, I call on the ICC to complete a full investigation of the recent natural gas price increases." Ryan stated. "Although, to date, natural gas utilities have been cooperative, we need assurances that Illinois consumers are not being taken advantage of."

Also today, Ryan announced that a series of regional meetings will be held across the state this month in an effort to educate the public about what state services are available to help families cope with higher home energy costs this winter.

"A colder than normal winter and higher natural gas prices have led to a big jump in heating bills. Fortunately, there are programs available that can help ease the financial burden facing many families across Illinois, particularly low-income families," Ryan said.

To ensure Illinois residents and community agencies are fully aware of the heating assistance programs available, Governor Ryan has instructed the Departments of Commerce and Community Affairs, Aging, Human Services, Illinois Commerce Commission and State Fire Marshal to participate in public meetings to be held in Rockford, Waukegan, Chicago Ridge, Chicago, Carterville and Decatur (see attached list). Among the topics that will be addressed include expansion of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which under Governor Ryan's direction, has seen benefits increase up to 35 percent from last winter. In addition, the public will have the opportunity to learn about home weatherization assistance, fire safety in the home, and accessing various social services at the local level. Information on the LIHEAP program is available by calling the toll-free LIHEAP information line at 1-800-252-8643.

"The state of Illinois has the resources to help families, particularly low income families, who may be having difficulty dealing with this season's harsh winter weather. These meetings are designed to make sure the public knows about those services and takes advantage of the assistance available," Ryan added.

This fall, Ryan proposed legislation to raise the eligibility level for LIHEAP from 125% of the federal poverty level to 150%, and repeated his call for the General Assembly to pass this legislation when they return to Springfield.

"I believe increasing the amount of money a family can make and still qualify for LIHEAP is a critical step we must take to serve the working poor and senior citizens on Social Security, who would otherwise be denied help," said Ryan, who expects the legislation will pass the General Assembly next week.

While in Washington attending swearing-in ceremonies for the new Congress, Governor Ryan and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley will meet with members of the congressional delegation to discuss the impact that rising natural gas prices are having on Illinois consumers.

"Rising natural gas prices have created an extra burden on all low-income households this winter and particularly those on fixed incomes," Ryan added. "My administration will do everything it can to help reduce the impact of the price increases."

The public meetings have been scheduled as follows:

Rockford, Illinois
JANUARY 16, 2001
6:30 p.m. To 8:00 p.m.
State of Illinois Regional Building
Auditorium, Lower Level
200 S. Wyman

Waukegan, Illinois
JANUARY 17, 2001
6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Waukegan Public Library
128 N. County Street

Chicago Ridge, IL
JANUARY 18, 2001
6:30 p.m to 8:00 p.m.
Village of Chicago Ridge
Municipal Center
10455 S. Ridgeland Ave.

Chicago, Illinois
JANUARY 19, 2001
10 a.m. to 12:00 noon
State Of Illinois Building JRTC
16th floor conference room
100 W. Randolph

Carterville, Illinois
JANUARY 22, 2001
6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
John Logan Community College
Bldg. G. first floor Room C-138
700 Logan College Road

Decatur, Illinois
JANUARY 23, 2001
6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Decatur Civic Center
1 Gary K. Anderson Plaza
City Council Chambers, 3rd floor


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