Los Angeles Times

SoCalGas seeks rate hike amid bill shock

Increase would apply in addition to market price fluctuatio­ns.

- By Julia Wick

Southern California Gas Co. — a utility that serves nearly 22 million people from the Central Valley to the U.S.-Mexico border — hopes to raise rates in 2024.

The request comes as many gas customers face immense sticker shock because of surges in the wholesale price of natural gas, though SoCalGas’ bid is unrelated to the fluctuatio­ns in the market.

The company filed its applicatio­n with the California Public Utilities Commission in May as part of a regular rate-setting process.

Such proceeding­s occur every four years, with the PUC taking “a broad, indepth look at a utility’s costs of operating and maintainin­g their system, and the allocation of those costs among customers,” PUC spokespers­on Christophe­r Chow said.

This proceeding, which will also include public input, will determine the total amount SoCalGas is authorized to collect from customers in 2024-27.

Rates are ultimately determined by the PUC.

If SoCalGas’ rate request is approved in its entirety, “the average residentia­l monthly bill using 36 therms per month would increase by approximat­ely $8.62 per month in 2024” compared with 2023, according to a company fact sheet.

The applicatio­n also asks for additional increases through 2027.

The company says that the increases are needed to modernize and upgrade infrastruc­ture, “support the growth of more diverse renewable energy options” and retain and reward staff members.

The rate request does not include the cost of the natural gas that customers use, meaning customers could also still be subject to market fluctuatio­ns along with increased rates.

The PUC will hold two virtual forums at which SoCalGas customers can offer input and feedback, on March 6 and 15.

The CPUC is also taking virtual public comments on its website, where many have already criticized the proposed rate increases.

“Listen up PUC . ... How dare SoCalGas ask for a rate increase! Our bill last month was $1,025!” one woman who identified as being from Woodland Hills wrote, saying that her family had stopped heating their home after 7 p.m. and were wearing three layers of clothing inside to stay warm.

Other angry commenters also cited recent Times reporting, noting that the chief executive of Sempra Energy — the parent company of SoCalGas — received nearly $25 million in total compensati­on in 2021 despite net income being down that year.

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