PASADENA, Calif. (KABC) — Many Southern California residents were left stunned when they saw their most recent SoCalGas bill, but it was even more shocking for business owners.
SoCalGas said the wholesale price of natural gas has skyrocketed this winter, now up 128% just from December to January.
Nate Pugh, who has owned Orange Grove Laundry in Pasadena for more than 20 years, and his January gas bill was nearly $10,000.
“It’s outrageous, and with the amount of dryers and the amount of hot water that we use, it’s just unbelievable,” said Pugh.
Prior to January, Pugh said he was paying between $3,000 and $4,000.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of The Utilities Reform Network Mark Toney is working to ensure utilities are clean, safe and affordable. He said people who are upset about the sudden jump in their SoCalGas bills need to call in to California Public Utilities Commission meetings and voice their anger.
Meanwhile, Pugh is trying not to lay that burden on the customers.
“They have no option,” he said. “They have to come here, they have to wash their clothes, we’re a necessity. It is not like buying a watch. You have to get your clothes washed. So for us to increase prices because of that, it just seems so unfair to me.”
The utility says wholesale rates it pays to obtain gas in the commodity market are dropping by 68% from January’s record highs.
That doesn’t quite translate to an equal drop in bills, because those customer rates also includes costs such as transportation and public fees. But SoCal Gas says if, for example, you paid $300 for your January bill, you would pay around $135 in February for the same usage.
“There’s gonna be ups and downs, you just have to pray that it’s going to go back down and we’re gonna find a balance,” said Pugh. “A lot of residential, as well as commercial customers, who are suffering right now. It’s going to be really tough on everybody.”
Meanwhile, in Long Beach, city leaders are looking to help those with the most need of assistance to avoid them having to get stuck with the unaffordable bills, several of whom called into the meeting Wednesday night.
“I’ve got my senior mom at home in Long Beach freezing, scared to turn her heater on because she can’t afford the bill each month,” said one caller. “My little 4-year-old daughter is telling me, ‘Mommy, I’m cold,’ and I’m scared our gas bill will be over $500.”
The city’s plan is to take some of the extra gas tax revenue it received due to the spike in prices, and get it back to the people.
“We too need to tighten our belt and find ways to accommodate those costs,” said Long Beach City Manager Tom Modica. “We do feel this particular money should be returned to a rebate-type program.”
The vote passed unanimously and will now head to the city’s utility department.
WATCH | Long Beach SoCalGas customers may soon be getting help for bills
Here are some tips to help you reduce gas usage:
Lower your thermostat by 3 to 5 degrees. That can save up to 10% on heating costs.
Install proper caulking and weather-stripping around doors and windows. It can save you up to 15%.
Another 10% can be saved by washing clothes in cold water.
Turn down the temperature on water heaters.
Limit the use of non-essential natural gas appliances, like spas and fireplaces.
SoCal Gas offers more tips and programs to help you pay your bills here.
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