Councilman calls to investigate SoCalGas over bill increases in wake of leak

Some people are noticing their gas bills double and triple what's normal for this time of year.

- Councilman Mitchell Englander submitted a resolution to the Los Angeles City Council Tuesday calling on the California Public Utilities Commission, which is already probing the Porter Ranch gas leak, to investigate the rate increases experienced by Southern California Gas Co. customers.

He said elected officials across Los Angeles have received many calls from constituents over "abnormally high bills'' from the Gas Co. "This bill-spiking comes at a time when SoCalGas is experiencing a major disaster at its Aliso Canyon facility,'' Englander said. "I am simply not buying that these two incidents are not related. It appears that the entire Los Angeles basin is now feeling the effects of the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak.''

The council is scheduled to discuss the resolution Feb. 10.

SoCalGas officials have vehemently denied any connection between bill increases and the Porter Ranch leak. According to the company, rising bills are the result of increased usage during colder winter months.

Gas Co. officials also said that higher usage can result in customers being billed on a higher tiered rate. The company also noted that some customers' bills were based on a billing cycle of longer than 35 day, which can
increase bills by up to 30 percent.

Earlier today, Brad Sherman, a Democratic congressman who has a home in Porter Ranch close to the site of the gas leak, said he plans to introduce legislation designed to prevent more leaks in the future.

Sherman noted that the Department of Transportation Materials Safety Administration has established federal safety regulations for natural gas transportation.

"However, PHMSA has yet to use its existing regulatory authority regarding natural gas storage,'' he said, adding that the legislation he plans to introduce, the Natural Gas Storage Safety Act, would direct the PHMSA to
implement safety standards for natural gas storage facilities.

"This bill is a backstop,'' Sherman said. "If PHMSA doesn't adopt regulations using its existing authority, this bill would compel them to act.''

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