Legislation proposes natural gas connection for underprivileged Pembroke residents
By W.J. Kennedy
April 22, 2020
Legislation in the General Assembly would give residents of Pembroke Township, and other economically distressed Illinois communities, access to affordable, clean-burning natural gas.
The bills, filed by Sen. Patrick Joyce (D-Essex) and Rep. Larry Walsh (D-Elwood), would ease the way for gas utilities to provide extensions of natural services (build pipelines) in “designated hardship areas,” such as Pembroke.
Currently, Pembroke residents, with a household median income of only $28,922, rely on a combination of propane, wood stoves and space heaters for heat.
The measures have won the backing of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition and The Empowerment Alliance, which promotes the use of natural gas in distressed communities.
“As an energy supply it is abundant, low-cost, clean, and makes us more energy independent and less reliant on foreign sources,” Alliance spokesman Ian Prior told the Kankakee Times. “If this legislation passes, it is a major win for the residents of Pembroke.”
Prior further said that 26 percent of Pembroke residents are living below the poverty line, nearly double the poverty rate in Illinois.
“Reducing energy costs for the residents of Pembroke by switching to natural gas is exactly the kind of smart policy decision that can drastically improve lives,” he said.
Rainbow PUSH is working with Naperville’s Nicor Gas to extend service to the township, a move that will both help residents heat their homes and attract business to the area.
“This is our work — fighting poverty and connecting people,” Rev. Jesse Jackson told the Chicago Tribune back in December. “This is the right moment to move. We have a governor who’s sensitive and we have people (in power) who care.”
All the way back in the early 2000’s, Gov. George Ryan announced the construction of a women’s prison in the area, which would have required the construction of natural gas pipeline. The project was never completed. Ryan was convicted in 2006 of federal corruption charges.