Illinois Citizen Utility Board (CUB)

Public Act 83-945

The most sensitive nerve in the body is the pocketbook nerve.

President Harry S. Truman

View The Portrait

On September 20, 1983, Gov. James Thompson signed the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) law (Public Act 83-945) to provide “effective and democratic representation of utility consumers before the Illinois Commerce Commission, the General Assembly, the courts and other public bodies, and by providing consumer education on utility services prices and methods of energy conservation.”

Under the new law, CUB was established to be a statewide, nonpartisan consumer group. It would receive no tax dollars beyond an initial $100,000 startup loan, which it repaid with interest ahead of schedule. Members could join for $5, and anyone (except utility employees) could run for the volunteer Board of Directors elected by the membership.

In July, 1984, the first CUB membership inserts were included in 3.5 million phone bills. Some 30,000 consumers quickly sent back $5 to join the new group. The next month, 2.3 million gas customers received the CUB insert along with 5 million electric customers in September, 1984.

Within six months, CUB had grown to 100,000 dues-paying members from all 102 counties in Illinois. And it’s grown to be one of the most successful consumer groups in the nation over the past three decades.

The Illinois Citizens Utility Board is a powerful voice for consumers. Since 1984, CUB has saved consumers billions of dollars by defeating or delaying rate hikes, winning rate reductions, suing the utility companies and promoting energy conservation. It has also counseled tens of thousands of consumers about their complicated utility bills.

The birth of CUB came after advisory referendums were placed on the ballots of Chicago and 111 other municipalities through the petition efforts of Pat Quinn and volunteers of the Coalition for Political Honesty. The Chicago City Council approved a referendum resolution sponsored by Ald. Edward Burke calling for the creation of CUB, and Chicago voters approved the CUB referendum by a 4-1 margin in the November, 1982 election.

On April 12, 1983, voters in 111 suburban and downstate municipalities overwhelmingly approved CUB advisory referendums. The Illinois General Assembly paid attention to the successful CUB advisory referendums and enacted the CUB bill, sending the bill to Gov. Thompson’s desk.