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The Circuit Court of Cook County granted a preliminary injunction on Monday preventing the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) and its chairman Brien Sheahan from releasing the controversial NextGrid study on the future of electric utility regulations in Illinois. The court blocked the report until the conclusion of an ongoing lawsuit that alleges the study process violated Illinois law.
Illinois PIRG Education Fund and GlidePath filed a lawsuit in June 2018 alleging that Sheahan and the ICC repeatedly violated the Open Meetings Act by denying the public the opportunity to attend NextGrid meetings, singling out individuals to exclude from meetings, and excluding participants’ input from meeting minutes, among other violations. Weeks later, the ICC agreed in its pleadings that its prior meetings did not comply with the Open Meetings Act and agreed in a court order to open meetings going forward.
Despite the ongoing litigation, the ICC released the draft final report for NextGrid on Dec. 14, 2018, and announced it would accept public comments though Jan. 10, 2019. The ICC’s intention was to release the final NextGrid report by Jan. 15.
Though the ICC was the NextGrid leader and manager, its facilitators were contracted and paid by utility companies. The facilitators’ contract grants the utility companies the right to review all NextGrid reports before they are issued. Once published, the utility companies who paid for the report would be able to use NextGrid to lobby the General Assembly and the ICC for favorable regulations.
“The NextGrid report was drafted and edited behind closed doors with undue influence from powerful utility interests,” said Abe Scarr, Executive Director of Illinois PIRG Education Fund. “This exactly the type of behavior the Open Meetings Act was created to prevent. We are pleased with the court’s decision and we intend to see that the state’s laws are enforced.”
“By issuing a draft NextGrid report in the midst of ongoing litigation, the ICC and Chairman Sheahan have demonstrated a complete disregard for Illinois law,” said Dan Foley, CEO of GlidePath. “Unless the NextGrid report can be created through the open and transparent process required by law, it should not be issued.”
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