SPRINGFIELD — The decades-long journey of bringing natural gas to Pembroke Township is drawing to an end.

And there will be cause for celebration within the eastern Kankakee County community.

Shortly after midnight Monday, the Illinois House of Representatives concurred with the Senate amendment to House Bill 3404 and overwhelmingly approved the measure 81-25.

All that’s left is Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature.

Once signed, the legislation becomes law immediately.

“This is unbelievable for our community, a historic moment,” Hopkins Park Mayor Mark Hodge said.

State Rep Jackie Haas, R-Kankakee, authored the bill. State Sen. Patrick Joyce, D-Essex, sponsored the bill in the Senate.

“I am thrilled to see this reach the finish line,” Haas said in a release.

“My staff and I have worked really hard to get to this point, as have countless residents, community stakeholders, advocates and elected officials on both sides of the aisle at local, state and federal levels of government.

“This legislation paves the way for a pilot program for the distribution of grants for the construction of natural gas infrastructure in Pembroke Township.”

The legislation would give 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.

Through the Pembroke Township Natural Gas Investment Fund, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity would distribute grants to residents to help cover the cost of converting stoves, heaters and other appliances to be compatible with natural gas.

Residents would be able to opt in or out of service,

The project has the backing of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, Kankakee County Board, Economic Alliance of Kankakee County, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

Nicor Gas’ current tariff only allows the company to install 200 feet per customer at no charge.

The remaining distance would typically be paid for by the residents or community.

Nicor officials said it has identified 400 homes and 22 businesses for possible service in the project estimated to cost $8 million.

“This is personal. Pembroke Township is only a few miles away from where I grew up and not far from where my husband and I live now,” Haas said.

“Pembroke is a rural community with many disparities — limited access to jobs, services, little to no economic development and food deserts. Energy accessibility has the potential to change all that. This bill will offer residents safe, affordable and clean energy.

“It will also encourage economic development, attract new businesses and create jobs.

“At the end of the day, this bill is about energy accessibility and equity. I look forward to bearing witness to the many opportunities that can be afforded to my constituents as soon as Gov. Pritzker signs this bill into law.”

Jeff Bonty is a reporter for The Daily Journal. He can be reached at jbonty@daily-journal.com and 815-937-3366.


Jeff Bonty has worked for The Daily Journal since September 1986, starting in the sports department before moving to news reporting in 2002. He's a native of Indiana and graduate of Purdue University. His email is jbonty@daily-journal.com.