CHICAGO – Miriam Cienfuegos, 26, had her gas turned off illegally Jan. 20. Under Illinois law, no person should be disconnected after Dec. 1. This latest shutoff, in the midst of a record low temperature cold wave, gives more weight to growing sentiment that profits should not keep people in the cold.

Raising awareness about the issues associated with dangerous levels of freezing temperatures is the aim of Affordable Power to the People, a Chicago group fighting for fair and affordable energy. The group was back in the city’s downtown Jan. 26 in protest. Beginning from the State of Illinois Building, which houses the office of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the group marched to City Hall, where Mayor Richard J. Daley’s office is situated. From there, the group moved onto the offices of Chicago’s gas company, which is ironically named Peoples Gas.

Peoples Gas acknowledges the fact that 13,000 households within the city’s limits are living without heat and hot water. Under the Good Samaritan Program, announced by Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn at a press conference in with Peoples Gas in December, anyone in the city whose gas is shut off can be re-connected for 20 percent of their bill or $250, whichever is lower. However, within days of that announcement, Affordable Power to the People saw evidence that the agreement was being violated. Apparently, the gas company that serves Chicago has decided to stick to their profits rather than their word.

The author can be reached at chochozz@aol.com.

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