Senator Stern Calls on Sempra to Put Profits Towards Working Families Hit with Record Gas Bills

Applauding Governor Newsom, Sen. Energy Chair Bradford Calls for Ratepayer Protection, Federal Investigation, Stern Proposes Bill on Smarter Gas Planning to Avoid Stranded Assets and Windfall Profits

February 7, 2023

SACRAMENTO – While soaring utility gas bills have left a gaping hole in family budgets across the southland, Sempra Energy is facing increasing scrutiny for putting executive and shareholder profits ahead of the customers served by the gas utilities they own.

Echoing recent calls by Governor Newsom and California Senate Energy Utilities & Communications Chair Steve Bradford to investigate price spikes and protect ratepayers, Stern proposed legislation that could strengthen the hand of state regulators and avert price spikes or windfall profits in the future.

"The cost of the recent natural gas price spikes were borne not by Sempra’s top executives, who made over $100 million in 2021 alone, but by a lot of hard working individuals just trying to get by. We need to fix the immediate crisis, and a fifty dollar climate credit or a one million charitable contribution from SoCalGas won't offset the hit family budgets just took,” said Senator Stern.

Stern’s legislative proposal would build on a long term gas planning proceeding the CPUC undertook last year to ensure that in addition to any immediate investigation, the Commission would focus on avoiding asset stranding, and examine structural protections against ratepayer price shocks in the future.

Katy Morsony, of The Utility Reform Network (TURN), a non-profit ratepayer advocate said, “Senator Stern’s legislation will empower regulators to protect Californians from unexpected price spikes in the future. Further, it will give regulators the tools to investigate and hold accountable anyone who is unjustly profiting off the hardships of others. Even before the January bills arrived, Californians were facing an affordability crisis leaving many with the choice to pay rent or their utility bill and the impact of these unexpectedly high utility bills is devastating.”

“Southern California Gas doubled consumers’ natural gas bills with virtually no notice, leaving its customers with large, unexpected bills. They are now forced to choose between paying their utility bills and their rent, food costs, and other monthly obligations with no warning.” said Jamie Court, President of Consumer Watchdog, in a recent letter calling on the Attorney General Rob Bonta to investigate Sempra and Southern California Gas Company.

“I hope FERC, the CPUC and our recently confirmed Public Advocate heed the Governor and our Senate Energy Chair’s push to investigate the cause of these recent spikes. Especially where parent companies like Sempra are making billions off gas market trading, we have to be extra critical,” Stern said.