California Watchdog Wants SoCalGas to Pay Bigger Lobby Fine


A California consumer watchdog agency is calling on regulators to fine Sempra Energy’s Southern California Gas Co. an additional $124 million for using customer money to lobby against the state’s climate goals.

SoCalGas has continued to use ratepayer funds to fight stringent energy codes and standards in state proceedings after regulators barred the utility from doing it in 2018, the Public Advocates Office of the California Public Utilities Commission said in a filing Friday.

The fine would be in addition to a $255 million penalty proposed against SoCalGas last month by the consumer advocate and the Sierra Club for allegedly using customer money to block local gas bans and stricter energy-efficiency standards as early as 2014. The proposed penalties would need approval from the five-member utilities commission to be imposed.

SoCalGas says it did nothing wrong.

The “request for penalties in this matter is simply absurd,” said SoCalGas spokeswoman Christine Detz in a statement. “Their claims are demonstrably wrong and without merit.”

The state consumer advocate has been investigating SoCalGas’s activities in promoting natural gas use and how it has accounted for the cost of the activities. The probe has cast a spotlight on the utility’s efforts to push back against a move by California policy makers and local governments to reduce natural gas use due to climate concerns.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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