The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion Tuesday requesting state leaders to investigate the spike in the cost of natural gas that residents experienced this month, and the county will also mobilize its departments to offer relief.
The motion authored by 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger and 2nd District Supervisor Holly Mitchell directed the county’s legislative liaisons, along with the county’s legal teams and other departments, to issue a letter on behalf of the board to state leaders to investigate and request funding for public utility infrastructure.
In addition, the county will look to identity financial assistance opportunities to assist customers and households. Relevant county departments will also work with SoCalGas to identify and publicize customer programs and financial assistance services available, according to the motion.
“Exorbitant natural gas price spikes are upending our constituents’ abilities to pay for the essential utility service that keeps them warm during these cold winter months,” Barger, who represents the Santa Clarita Valley, said in a prepared statement. “We need to examine what is driving this unexpected price increase and also develop relief strategies that will reach the many people who will struggle to pay gas bills that tripled overnight.”
“We can’t wait for this issue to fix itself,” Barger continued.
SoCalGas announced that ratepayers would see an increase of more than double in their bills, up to 128%. The company cited numerous factors affecting the price increase, which included below-normal temperatures, high natural gas consumption, reduced natural gas flows and pipeline constraints.
In an effort to assist ratepayers, SoCalGas listed various services on its website to reduce natural gas consumption, possible payment plans and more.
According to county officials, constituents contacted their respective supervisors’ offices indicating that they are seeing large spikes in their monthly bills, some experiencing two- and three-fold increases from the prior year.
“These spikes come as usage remains relatively the same, indicating that consumers are facing the prospect of escalating costs due to market fluctuations that are beyond their control,” according to the supervisors’ motion.
Mitchell said in a prepared statement that the county’s natural gas partners must do more to help families lower the cost of their bills. The county will look to bring back possible solutions to the Board of Supervisors in the next month.
In Santa Clarita, ratepayers might continue to see their natural gas bills in the same higher-than-average price range. During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Marisol Espinosa, a representative of SoCalGas, addressed council members and the public on the issue.
“You’re probably already receiving your bills and seeing that they are higher compared to one year ago,” Espinosa said. “These are the result of historically high natural gas prices in the western United States.”
She emphasized that SoCalGas does not set the price for natural gas — instead, it’s determined by national and regional markets.
“We buy that gas on behalf of our customers, and the cost of buying is built directly with customers with no markup, so we don’t make a profit from gas prices,” she said.
She described some of the SoCalGas programs that could help ratepayers with their bills and also listed some actions that could also lower gas bills, such as installing proper cooking and weather stripping, washing clothes in cold water and more.
“Again, we understand that higher prices can be a shock to many customers,” Espinosa said. “We’re just here to simply share information and let the residents know that there are opportunities for assistance through SoCalGas.com.”