Santa Clarita Valley residents may be able to worry less about their utility bills going into February as the Southern California Gas Co. announced market prices for natural gas dropped, resulting in a 68% decrease for residential and small businesses when compared to the prices seen in January.
SoCalGas estimates that if a customer received a $300 bill for January usage, that same usage would result in a bill of about $135 for February usage.
“While prices in the western region have significantly decreased from the prices seen in January, they remain higher than last year, when the average SoCalGas residential bill for February usage was $99,” according to a prepared statement from the company.
“You’re probably already receiving your bills and seeing that they are higher compared to one year ago, said Marisol Espinosa, a representative of SoCalGas, during a recent Santa Clarita City Council meeting. “These are the result of historically high natural gas prices in the western United States.”
SoCalGas does not set the price for natural gas, but rather the price is determined by national and regional markets, she said.
“SoCalGas buys natural gas in those markets on behalf of residential and small business customers, and the cost of buying that gas is billed to those customers with no markup, meaning SoCalGas does not profit from the movement of gas commodity prices,” according to a prepared statement from the company.
In response to the increase in gas bills in January, local and state leaders called for an investigation into the price hike and sought ways to help constituents.
Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, along with other California Senate Republicans, urged the California Public Utilities Commission to immediately disburse a state credit to provide customers with relief on their high natural gas bills.
“Gas bills are two or three times higher than normal. Residents in my district are calling my office understandably in shock — this is not OK,” Wilk said in a prepared statement. “With overnight temperatures expected to be freezing this week, using natural gas to stay warm is not a choice, it is a must.”
“I’m calling on the CPUC to act and immediately distribute this credit to provide those struggling with a much-needed break,” he continued.
Wilk noted this year’s credit for SoCalGas customers is scheduled to be about $50.77 per qualifying customer.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion on Jan. 24 requesting an investigation into the spike in the cost of natural gas. In addition, the county mobilized its departments to offer relief.
“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,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents these Santa Clarita Valley, said in a prepared statement.
According to county officials, staff will bring forward possible resources or other means to support residents experiencing an increase in their natural gas bills.
The CPUC, which regulates services and utilities, protects consumers, safeguards the environment and more, is slated to hold a discussion Tuesday on recent high natural gas prices this winter.
The commission will also examine possible causes and impacts on electric markets, and explore potential measures to mitigate the impact of drastic changes in the natural gas and electric market on consumers.
As part of its agenda, the commission will also consider accelerating the climate credit, which Wilk noted would provide much-needed support for those in need.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there are a number of factors that contributed to higher natural gas commodity prices that customers are currently seeing — low natural gas storage levels on the West Coast; below-normal temperatures on the West Coast; high natural gas demand for heating by customers in areas with below-normal temperatures; reduced natural gas supplies to the West Coast from Canada and the Rocky Mountains; and reduced interstate pipeline capacity to the West Coast due to pipeline maintenance in west Texas.
For information on SoCalGas assistance programs, visit bit.ly/3Hj2KDm.