The pain might not be over for southern California gas customers.
Although the increase is a routine request made by 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 because of inventory shortages strained by the Ukraine conflict, restrictions on licensing and drilling, and increased national electric power needs.
“SoCalGas files this [rate increase] during a time of transformative change,” SoCalGas President Maryam Brown said in a release in May. “Events in California and around the world have shown us that maintain[ing] the safety, reliability, and affordability of our local energy systems remain critically important.”
The revenue increase is expected to cost an average customer about $8.30 more for each bill and will cover operation, maintenance, and upgrade costs, according to the company. SoCalGas doesn’t make money on the natural gas it supplies customers.
News of the possible rate increase has sparked some opposition from residents who commented on the state’s utility commission website.
“I am vehemently against the proposed increase and feel that it borders on being criminal,” a Cathedral City man wrote. “I would encourage the [California Public Utilities Commission] to look at other ways [of managing expenses] to prevent such an increase.”
A Riverside resident on a fixed income told the commission her bill had already increased to $650.
“You are killing us! We need the heat in order to live,” the woman wrote. “This is just price gouging your customers and forcing people to live miserable lives. Stop the insanity.”
According to SoCalGas, about 58 percent of the increase will be spent to modernize and upgrade infrastructure, including paying for safety-related costs. Another 34 percent will pay for growth and development of clean fuels to help meet the state’s environmental goals, and improvements to customer service. 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 March 6 and March 15 to hear public comments and concerns about the increase.
A judge assigned to the case will consider proposals and evidence presented during the hearing and is expected to decide whether to approve the application.
If approved, the rate increase would show up on bills beginning Jan. 1, 2024.