The Board of Supervisors has asked the State of California to launch an investigation into natural gas utility bill spikes that county residents experienced this month and to develop a plan to prevent future spikes.
The action comes as a result of a motion introduced this week by Supervisor Kathryn Barger and co-authored by Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell that directs the county’s legislative liaisons, along with the county’s legal team and relevant county departments, to issue a letter on the Board’s behalf to relevant leaders of the California State Legislature – including the chair of the State’s Senate Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Communications and the chair of the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Energy.
“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 said. “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.”
“The surge in natural gas prices have had sweeping effects in the county, and low-income households are disproportionately impacted by the shocking and unforeseen price increases,” Mitchell stated. “The CPUC must investigate the issue, and our natural gas partners must do more to help families lower the cost of their bills. Our region’s vulnerability to natural gas supply fluctuations is one more reason why the county must urgently move away from fossil fuel dependence.”
The motion also directs the county’s team of legislative and legal experts to monitor the California Public Utilities Commission’s formal “en banc” review of the State’s natural gas providers’ price spikes, which will gather information from market experts as it examines causes and ways to help customers.
The motion further directs county departments to explore opportunities for financial assistance for vulnerable communities facing higher than expected natural gas bills.
Additionally, the county will seek to collaborate with SoCalGas to increase awareness of various programs to help consumers, including financial assistance, usage trackers, and information to help navigate the spike in natural gas costs.