Utility Lobbying Thwarts Passage of SB 938 in Senate Energy Committee

Critical California legislation to keep utility lobbying and promotional advertising out of customers' energy bills has been blocked


Zoe Woodcraft, zwoodcraft@earthjustice.org, (818) 606-7509

In a devastating blow to ratepayers across California, the Utility Accountability Act failed to pass a California Senate Energy Utilities and Communications Committee vote today, leaving Californians vulnerable to the predatory practices of utility companies. This failure to act comes despite mounting evidence of utilities fleecing customers for millions of dollars through advertising and political lobbying campaigns, as uncovered by The Sacramento Bee.

SB 938 was written to stop utilities from making Californians foot the bill for their political lobbying and advertising, which are driving up energy costs.

The California Legislature’s inability to pass this vital legislation reveals how much influence utility companies like PG&E and SoCalGas wield. Despite public outcry over a recent Sacramento Bee investigation that showed spent up to $6 million from a customer-funded wildfire safety fund to instead pay for a tv ad campaign, lawmakers failed to defend Californians against utility greed. SoCalGas has spent millions from customers to oppose clean energy, prioritizing profits over people.

“Every time Californians pay their skyrocketing utility bills, they are very possibly footing the bill for their utility’s advertising or political lobbying campaigns. The Sacramento Bee has revealed that utilities like PG&E and SoCalGas are fleecing their customers one dime at a time to the tune of millions of dollars. It’s incredibly disappointing to see the Utility Accountability Act, which would have brought urgently needed transparency to our energy bills, blocked today by utilities’ political influence machines,” Matt Vespa, senior attorney at Earthjustice. “We will continue to fight to hold utilities accountable for their misuse of customers’ money until California’s elected leaders end the Wild West status quo and establish vital guardrails. We thank Senator Dave Min for his strong championship to protect Californians’ pocketbooks and our climate.”

“Ratepayers facing astronomical rate increases and increasing energy insecurity deserve the knowledge that every one of their hard-earned dollars is funding safe and reliable energy service,” Katy Morsony, attorney at The Utility Reform Network (TURN). “Instead, today the utilities used their lobbying machine to block common sense political influence and advertising protections from becoming law.”

People hold signs in front of a gated facility. One says "SoCalGas makes me sick"
Activists march in protest at the front gate to Southern California Gas Company's Ventura Compressor Station in Ventura, California. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images).

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