California natural gas bills are skyrocketing: What can you do?

Californians will face outrageously high natural gas bills this January as utilities pass the increased cost of gas purchases on to customers.

Prices are about five times higher than they were in January last year, according to SoCalGas, which supplies most of Southern California.

Reasons include below-average temperatures along the west coast that have led to higher demand, reduced shipments from Canada and the Rocky Mountains, low inventories in the western US and pipeline maintenance in west Texas.

“SoCalGas does not set the price for natural gas,” says the utility. “Instead, natural gas prices are determined by national and regional markets. SoCalGas purchases natural gas in these markets on behalf of residential and small business customers and the cost of purchasing that gas is charged to those customers at no markup, meaning SoCalGas does not benefit from the movement in gas commodity prices.”

Regardless of the reasons gas bills are soaring, Californians are feeling the pinch. If you’re having trouble paying your bill, there are a few resources available.

The Gas Assistance Fund through SoCalGas offers one-time grants of up to $100 to eligible customers. To qualify, you must meet several requirements:

  • The natural gas bill must be in the name of the person seeking help.
  • The billing address must be the applicant’s primary residence.
  • The applicant may not apply for more than the maximum GAF allowance for the current program year.
  • The applicant must meet the income requirements listed below:
number of people in household Total annual household income* no more than
1-2 $36,620
3 $46,060
4 $55,500
5 $64,940
6 $74,380
7 $83,820
8th $93,260

SoCalGas

SoCalGas recently announced a $1 million contribution to the GAF, which will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, the utility said.

SoCalGas also said it would delay collection of overdue accounts until April 1 and would not segregate overdue customers in the first half of the year.

SoCalGas recommends the following tips to reduce your natural gas bill:

  • Lowering the thermostat by three to five degrees – health permitting – saves up to 10 percent on heating costs.
  • Installing proper caulking and caulking can save about 10 to 15 percent on heating and cooling costs.
  • Wash clothes in cold water to save up to 10 percent on heating costs.
  • Consider turning down the temperature of your water heater.
  • Limiting the use of non-essential natural gas appliances such as spas and fireplaces.

Most of California’s natural gas comes from out-of-state basins, according to the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates utility fees. In 2017, California utility customers got 38% of their natural gas supply from the Southwest, 27% from Canada, 27% from the US Rocky Mountain region, and 8% from California production.

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