99 years ago this month, the City of Springfield's Department of Public Property (the forerunner to CWLP) began serving its first commercial electric customers. The decision to do so would lead to years of struggle between the utility and a movement believed to be organized by a private electric company and its investors to stop the little municipal electric utility from becoming a commercial power provider. In spite of two referendums in which Springfield voters approved the City's purchase of two generators (the second of which is shown above) that would provide the Department of Public Property sufficient capacity to undertake commercial sales and grow its customer base, the private company, Springfield Gas and Electric, did not give up its opposition. Private citizens, believed by CWLP Commissioner Willis Spaulding to be supported by Springfield Gas and Electric, filed injunctions preventing the City from using water works or corporate funds to buy the first of the new generators. Not to be deterred, Spaulding raised money to pay for the generator by soliciting customers who were willing to pay in advance for the electric service the new generator would provide them. The private company then took its case to court, claiming the City had failed to receive authority from the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) to produce and sell electricity to private consumers and charging the conduct of the City amounted to extortion against the private company because CWLP was wrongfully luring away its customers. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and, in 1921, Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the majority opinion, saying municipalities are not in the same category as private utilties and, therefore, would not fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC, He stated that "the municipal corporation is allowed to go into business . . . on the theory that thereby the public welfare will be subserved." He also ruled that "the conduct of which the plaintiff complains is not extortion" but that CWLP was merely "charging rates that draw the plaintiff's customers away." Want to learn more about the history of CWLP? Check out our online historical pamphlets and videos (or order your free pamphlet copies while supplies last).
City Water, Light & Power is the municipal electric and water utility for Springfield, Illinois. CWLP also owns and manages Lake Springfield, the primary source of drinking water for Springfield and one of Central Illinois' premier recreational resources.
City Water, Light & Power's general offices are located on the fourth floor of Municipal Center East, 800 East Monroe, Springfield, IL 62757. Contact information for the General Office and other utility offices can be found on the Contact Us page.