Help for skyrocketing gas bills is on the way. Credits ranging from $90 to $120 will appear on utility bills as soon as March.
Gov. Gavin Newsom is asking federal authorities to investigate the recent spike in natural gas prices — an increase that has been evident to many Californians as their utility bills skyrocket. Households across the state opened their January gas bills last week to find their gas bills tripled in a single month.
“Since late November 2022, wholesale natural gas prices throughout the West have risen to alarming levels that greatly exceed prices in the rest of the country,” Newsom wrote Monday in a letter to Willie Phillips, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Utility providers had cautioned California customers to expect January gas bills totaling twice or more than what they paid for the same period in 2022. Even so, the spike exceeded the forecasts. The companies cited an unprecedented confluence of circumstances, including a recent cold snap, pipeline constraints associated with maintenance work in Texas, low gas storage in the Pacific region, and increased transportation rates.
Newsom characterized the cost spike as “extreme and unexpectedly high.”
“I, therefore, ask that FERC immediately focus its investigatory resources on assessing whether market manipulation, anticompetitive behavior, or other anomalous activities are driving these ongoing elevated prices in the western gas markets,” Newsom wrote. “And, if warranted, I ask that FERC bring its full enforcement powers and resources to bear to protect customers.”
At the state level, help is on the way. Credits ranging from $90 to $120 will appear on gas and electric bills as soon as March after the California Public Utilities Commission voted Thursday to accelerate the California Climate Credit, according to the governor’s office. The credit represents the consumer’s share of payments from the state’s cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and was previously scheduled to be granted in April by natural gas companies, according to CalMatters.
The $90 to $120 credit will be applied to residential utility bills starting in March for customers of PG&E, Southern California Edison, SDG&E and SoCalGas, according to Newsom. Customers of Bear Valley, Liberty, PacifiCorp and Southwest Gas will also get an accelerated credit, and the amount received will vary.
The public utilities commission and the California Energy Commission will hold a hearing Tuesday with market experts to examine the causes and impacts of the gas price increase.
“Millions of California families are opening their utility bills to sticker shock — and we’re taking action now to provide relief to help with those high gas bills,” Newsom said in a news release.
“We know this provides only temporary relief from soaring bills. That’s why I’m asking the federal government to use its full authority to investigate the spike in natural gas prices and take any necessary enforcement actions. We’re going to get to the bottom of this because Californians deserve to know what’s behind these exorbitant bills.”