The pain may not be over for gas customers in Southern California.
As millions recover from exorbitant utility bills, the state is considering the Southern California Gas Company’s (SoCalGas) request to raise monthly rates by 13.2 percent next year for the 5.9 million homes and businesses it serves.
While the increase is a routine request from SoCalGas every four years, it comes at a time when many residents are paying as much as 300 percent more for gas.
Skyrocketing costs for natural gas sent bills soaring in February due to stock shortages caused by the conflict in Ukraine, restrictions on licensing and drilling, and increased national electricity needs.
“SoCalGas records this [rate increase] at a time of transformative change,” SoCalGas President Maryam Brown said in a May release. “Events in California and around the world have shown us that we can keep that up[ing] the safety, reliability and affordability of our local energy systems remain critical.”
The revenue increase is expected to cost an average customer about $8.30 more for each bill and will cover operating, maintenance and upgrade costs, according to the company. SoCalGas makes no money from the natural gas it supplies to customers.
News of the possible rate increase has drawn some opposition from residents who have commented on the state’s utility commission website.
“I strongly oppose the proposed increase and think it borders on being criminal,” one Cathedral City man wrote. “I would the [California Public Utilities Commission] to look at other ways [of managing expenses] to avoid such an increase.”
A Riverside resident on a fixed income told the commission that her bill had already risen to $650.
‘You’re killing us! We need the heat to live,” the woman wrote. “This is just inflating prices on your customers and forcing people to live a miserable life. Stop the madness.”
According to SoCalGas, about 58 percent of the raise will be spent on modernizing and upgrading infrastructure, including paying for safety-related costs. Another 34 percent will pay for the growth and development of clean fuels to help meet the state’s environmental goals, as well as customer service improvements. The remainder will cover increased personnel costs to fund the company’s compensation programs.
SoCalGas and the California Public Utilities Commission will host two online public forums on March 6 and 15 to hear public comments and concerns about the increase.
The public may also submit written comments to the state’s utility commission. About 15 people responded on February 27.
A judge assigned to the case will consider proposals and evidence submitted at the hearing and is expected to decide whether to approve the application.
If approved, the rate increase would appear on bills starting January 1, 2024.