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Why Your Gas Bill's So High Right Now And How You Can Get Help Paying

A black circular metal stove burner with a ring of blue flame, fueled by gas underneath a metal grate.
SoCal Gas will be fined nearly $10 million for using customer money to fight state climate policies, like one that prevents gas stoves in new buildings.
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The price of natural gas has more than doubled in California over the last month — a 128% rise for January, according to SoCal Gas.

"There’s no easy way to put this: January bills are likely to be shockingly high," SoCal Gas said in a recent news release.

What's going on

There are several factors, according to the company:

  • A December cold snap brought "widespread, below-normal temperatures."
  • Natural gas consumption has been high.
  • There has been reduced natural gas flows, and pipeline constraints — including maintenance in West Texas.
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Why California is disproportionately affected?

Severin Borenstein with UC Berkeley’s Energy Institute explained why these issues caused higher prices in California than in other parts of the country.

"Natural gas prices in the middle of the country and the East are actually pretty low compared to earlier last year,” Borenstein said. “Any time you see these huge price differentials between California and elsewhere in the country... that means there's a pipeline problem.”

He said the price surge can be expected for other energy sources, too.

“The utilities are also paying more to buy electricity, because the prices for electricity in the wholesale market have spiked,” Borenstein said. “And so we're going to start seeing this show up in our electricity bills as well. And for low-income families, this is really going to be a strain.”

For families struggling with paying their bill as prices rise, SoCalGas offers an assistance program and energy usage tools to help. The utility serves nearly 22 million customers in more than 500 communities.

High prices beyond L.A.

These higher gas prices are affecting customers in other Southern California communities as well, including Long Beach.

Earlier this month, Long Beach utilities officials warned its nearly 500,000 customers that "a drastic increase in their natural gas bills" was coming, noting that global market prices had hit a 20-year high.

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In real dollars, they said that meant:

"The average single-family residential customer is likely to see an increase of $200 or more."

Chris Garner, the general manager for Long Beach Utilities, said in the news release that “our customers are understandably shocked by these high market prices suddenly experienced throughout Southern California.”

And the alarming January price rise follows December bills that were already twice as pricey as November.

Like SoCal Gas, the city is offering assistance to those in need.

What questions do you have about Southern California?