A Chicago gas pipe modernization program is severely behind schedule, over budget, and in danger of becoming obsolete as the city and the country move away from fossil fuels like gas toward renewables like wind and solar. The Chicago gas pipe replacement project was expected to take 20 years and cost $2.6 billion when it began in 2011. Nearly 10 years later, it is expected to take another 20 years and cost $7.7 billion — customers paid $10.81 per month this year to fund it.

Despite the cost, and even as the electrification of heating infrastructure continues and cities across the country ban, or seek to ban, gas infrastructure in new construction, the utility says dangers posed by gas leaks and explosions necessitate replacing Chicago’s aging — the oldest pipe replaced so far predates the Civil War — iron pipe gas distribution infrastructure.

Leaks from the pipes spew methane, a potent heat-trapping gas that is the main component of ‘natural’ gas, and pipe failures can lead to massive explosions like the deadly 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California. American fracking operations are a major source of methane pollution and in August the Trump administration weakened methane leak detection requirements. (Chicago Tribune)