koehlermicSPRINGFIELD – Illinois has nearly 2,000 miles of cast- and wrought-iron gas mains – many more than 60 years old. The federal government has identified these aging gas lines as a major public safety risk and issued a call to action to replace them as soon as possible.

"Illinois' aging gas lines are a real public safety hazard," said State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria). "And it's only going to get worse the longer we go without replacing them. Today, I've taken the first step by proposing legislation that will give gas distributors the tools they need to begin upgrading Illinois' pipelines."

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Illinois had 27 gas incidents caused by old, substandard gas lines between 2002 and 2011. Though the state had no fatalities, there were several injuries and more than $7 million in property damage during this time period.

"Replacing crumbling gas lines will also create thousands of jobs and help protect the environment by preventing underground gas leaks," Koehler added. "The time to do this is now, while natural gas prices are low."

Koehler's legislation, Senate Bill 1665, will make it easier for gas distributors to recover the cost of natural gas pipeline upgrades, making Illinois more competitive with neighboring states like Indiana, Missouri and Kentucky, which already have similar laws. It also enables gas companies to move gas meters to the outside of buildings and install modern tracking technology, reducing the need for manual meter readings and cutting customer costs. Outdoor meters make it easier for firefighters to shut off gas mains during emergencies.

The Illinois Commerce Commission keeps its strong oversight and review powers under the Gas Upgrade plan and gains new authority to penalize gas distribution companies if they don't meet annual performance and transparency goals.

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Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) speaks in support of Senate Bill 10, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, during debate Thursday on the Senate floor.

Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) speaks in support of Senate Bill 10, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, during debate Thursday on the Senate floor. (click to enlarge)

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State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) and State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria) leave the House chamber after the governor's State of the State address Wednesday.

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After a hearing in Peoria last week, an Illinois Senate committee has directed the Department of Public Health (DPH) to write official rules about smoking in outdoor restaurant patios and bar beer gardens.  The hearing was prompted by an incident in which many Peoria-area bars and patrons received smoking tickets for violating the Smoke Free Illinois Act when they thought they were in compliance with the law.  In at least one case, the bar owners had explicitly sought the advice of DPH before they started construction on their beer garden.

“We really need to clarify rules for the police, as well as restaurant and bar owners,” said State Senator Dave Koehler, who has taken a lead role in pushing the issue to the forefront.  “We can’t have Public Health telling bar owners one thing and the police enforcing another.  That’s just not fair for anyone.”

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Springfield Office:
323B Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-8250

Peoria Office:
400 NE Jefferson, Suite 200
Peoria, IL 61603
(309) 677-0120