Pembroke propane, natural gas

A large propane tank sits outside the Pembroke Township Senior Citizens Center near Lorenzo R. Smith Elementary School in Hopkins Park. Residents will soon have access to natural gas thanks to legislation now signed into law. 

Gov. JB Pritzker’s signature on a bill Friday will finally bring natural gas services to Pembroke Township in eastern Kankakee County.

HB 3404’s author, State Rep. Jackie Haas, R-Kankakee, said the legislation puts the wheels in motion on the long-awaited work on a natural gas pipeline.

“We will move forward with all the necessary steps with Nicor,” Haas said. “... It paves the way for this to become a reality.”

In addition to Haas, the law was supported and advanced by a group of stakeholders including the Village of Hopkins Park, Pembroke Township, Congresswoman Robin Kelly, Sen. Patrick Joyce, Rainbow PUSH and Kankakee County government.

“Pembroke residents have lived in a community that lacks the basic access to a natural gas service for far too long,” Joyce said in a news release. “I’m thrilled to see this transformative legislation signed into law so residents can have a reliable and affordable source of heat in their homes.”

The measure passed with bipartisan support and moved to Pritzker’s desk on June 30. With his signature, the law goes into effect immediately.

Samuel Payton, Pembroke Township supervisor and a Kankakee County Board member, said this current effort started three years ago, but it’s been an off-and-on effort for a couple decades.

“I’ve been a person for the last 16 years who’s been saying Pembroke needs natural gas,” Payton said. “All the communities around us — Aroma Park, Momence and St. Anne — have got natural gas. They are all thriving communities. We want natural gas.”

Payton said now he pays $750 for propane that lasts a little more than a month.

“In the winter days, I have to spend approximately three times that, so if we had natural gas, I could be on the budget. If we had natural gas, I wouldn’t have to worry about my service getting turned off.”

In a written statement, Payton and Hopkins Park Mayor Mark Hodge called this “a historic moment in our communities’ history.”

Together they said their respective communities were left behind for decades and that this measure will level the playing field so that they can compete for industry and jobs.

The process

The legislation creates the Pembroke Township Natural Gas Investment Pilot Program which will run for a duration of five years. This program will allow Nicor Gas to extend its natural gas infrastructure to serve Pembroke Township.

“For residents of Hopkins Park in Pembroke Township, having reliable ways to heat their homes and safe ways to feed their families is a necessity,” said John O. Hudson III, president and CEO of Nicor Gas. “Affordable energy choice is now a reality thanks to the longtime, organic initiative driven by the community, and supported by numerous advocates, state and local leaders and national organizations.”

For residents who choose to connect to natural gas service, Sen. Joyce secured $1 million in state funding last year to enable Pembroke Township residents to take advantage of these new service lines. Through the Pembroke Township Natural Gas Investment Fund, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will distribute grants to eligible residents to help cover the cost of converting appliances to be compatible with natural gas.

The legislation now signed into law gives Nicor Gas the ability to serve the community of Hopkins Park by installing up to 500 feet of natural gas main per customer in designated hardship areas, which are defined by the U.S. Census Tracts and Department of Housing and Urban Development, at no charge to the served customers.

“Bringing more robust infrastructure to Pembroke Township is an issue of equity for an area that has not seen enough investment,” Congresswoman Kelly said in a news release. “I will continue to work to see services brought to this area that improve quality of life and attract jobs for residents.”