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Amid talk of SoCalGas rate hikes, groups urge L.A. city attorney to investigate utility

On the same day that a director of Gas Co. in Southern California came under criticism from frustrated customers and advocacy groups over a proposed $4.9 billion interest rate hike, a coalition of community groups urged the Los Angeles Attorney General to investigate the utility for “potential price gouging and market manipulation.” ”

Twenty groups, comprising social, environmental, health and utility organizations, wrote a letter to City Atty. Hydee Feldstein Soto on Monday to express serious concern that “SoCalGas has facilitated a price hike to enrich their parent company, Sempra Energy.”

The letter highlights findings from the California Public Utilities Commission that while gas prices increased about 30% for Pacific Gas & Electric customers between January 2022 and January 2023, they more than doubled for San Diego Gas & Electric customers and nearly tripled for those that depended on SoCalGas during the same period.

A recent filing revealed that Sempra, the parent company of SoCalGas and SDG&E, made $2.9 billion in profits in 2022. By the end of 2021, the most recent year for which data was available, the three top executives at Sempra had accrued approximately $100 million in compensation .

SoCalGas did not immediately respond to the request for comment.

Feldstein Soto, sworn in as a city attorney in December, serves as legal counsel to the mayor, city council and city services, advising them on what they can and can’t do. Her office handles lawsuits filed for and against the city, which may include a lawsuit against SoCalGas on behalf of the city if it decides to pursue it.

Governor Gavin Newsom wrote a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in February, expressing similar concerns about wholesale natural gas prices in California and other Western states.

The governor asked FERC to “focus its investigative resources on assessing whether market manipulation, anti-competitive behavior or other anomalous activity is driving these persistently high prices in Western gas markets.”

Ivor Pine, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office, said they received the letter and are reviewing it.