Twenty social, environmental, health and utility justice organizations submitted a letter calling on Los Angeles City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto to investigate SoCalGas for potential price gouging and market manipulation.
SoCalGas has recently filed for a rate increase with the California Public Utilities Commission that would raise customer bills by an average of 13.7%.
Californians’ natural gas bills have gone up due to increased rates for commodities and increased transportation costs, but several organizations are questioning the large increase amid a reported increase in profits for SoCalGas and its parent company, Sempra Energy.
“We urge the L.A. City Attorney to investigate why SoCalGas paid two-hundred fifty percent more for gas this winter than PG&E, leading to skyrocketing bills for residents of Los Angeles,” said Executive Director with The Utility Reform Network Mark Toney. “The City Attorney needs to find out how much in profits Sempra was pocketing this winter while exporting liquified natural gas from its terminals in Baja California when purported gas supply shortages caused prices to dramatically rise at a time when families were facing a worsening affordability crisis.”
Representatives for SoCalGas insist that the price hikes are a response to outside factors.
“…A combination of out-of-state natural gas supply constraints, combined with early and persistent cold weather conditions across the West and low storage inventories in the western region drove up commodity prices,” said Brian Haas, a spokesperson for SoCalGas. “…Conditions that led to high prices [include] out-of-state pipeline maintenance and low storage inventories outside of SoCalGas’ service territory.”
Governor Gavin Newsom wrote to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in February asking them to investigate the rate increase and “the extent and longevity of the price spike” and that “the root causes of these extraordinary prices warrant further examination”.
SoCalGas warned ratepayers of a planned increase in January, and those who may need assistance with their bill may apply for a grant through the Gas Assistance Fund.