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Holding Utilities Accountable for Improperly Using Customer Money

A father prepares a meal with his son on an induction stove.

Cooking on an electric induction stove. Children who grow up in a home with a gas stove are 42% more likely to develop asthma than those who don’t. Stronger efficiency standards pose threats to SoCalGas' business.

Tom Werner / Getty Images

What’s at Stake

SoCalGas defied Commission policy and used customer funds to fight measures that are essential to meeting California’s climate goals and fight the climate crisis.

Overview

Environmental and watchdog groups exposed a campaign by the Southern California Gas Company that used customer money to fight stronger energy efficiency rules at the federal, state, and local levels in a campaign that sabotaged California’s clean energy progress.

From at least 2014 to 2017, SoCalGas fought efficiency rules that threatened its profits, dipping into funds that the Commission had authorized the utility to spend on promoting stronger efficiency rules because these rules save customers money and reduce pollution.

In a troubling and ironic development, SoCalGas used customers’ funds intended to support advocacy by utilities in California for stronger energy codes and standards to instead campaign against energy efficiency measures.

Case ID

4032

Clients

Case Updates

May 21, 2021 | Legal Document

Sierra Club Appeal of Presiding Officer's Decision Ordering Remedies for Southern California Gas Company's Activities that Misaligned with Commission Intent for Codes and Standards Advocacy

Southern California Gas Company (“SoCalGas”) used ratepayer money to finance a long-running campaign to undermine efficiency standards at all levels of government, particularly when the Company determined that stronger efficiency standards could threaten its business interests by making gas appliances less competitive against electric options. Yet despite the Presiding Officer’s Decision finding that SoCalGas’ actions were “improper” and “result[ed] in appreciable harm to the regulatory process,” the Decision fails to impose meaningful consequences. By not assessing penalties for SoCalGas’ blatant, well-documented violations and only requiring a return of shareholder incentives and a portion of misspent funds, the Presiding Officer’s Decision commits legal error. The Presiding Officer’s Decision is an abdication of the Commission’s responsibility to deter future misconduct and duty to impose penalties for violations of Commission requirements.