You’re not the only one whose PG&E bill has gone through the roof, and Governor Newsom is calling for a federal investigation into possible market manipulation with these crazy price hikes.
You've likely noticed the infuriating matter that your PG&E bill is soaring, and even more infuriatingly, PG&E wants to raise your rates yet again. As of press time for this post, the California Public Utilities Commission is holding a hearing on this matter right now (streaming here if you want to watch it, it runs until 1 p.m. PT Tuesday), to “examine possible drivers” of these logic-defying price increases.
Is one of these “possible drivers” price gouging by PG&E? SFist tuned in to this meeting, and we were struck by the above graph that was shown. Hmmm, other western states’ regional utilities prices have remained relatively flat. But those huge spikes in the red lines and orange lines represent PG&E prices and Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) prices, and something sure seems a little out of order here.
Now KTVU reports that Governor Gavin Newsom is calling for a federal investigation into western gas markets.* “The cost of natural gas has dropped across the country, but not here in California,” KTVU reports. “Prices here have soared compared to a year ago, with some customers seeing a more than 300 percent hike in their bills.”
Newsom is calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to investigate. “Since late November 2022, wholesale natural gas prices throughout the West have risen to alarming levels that greatly exceed prices in the rest of the country,” Newsom says in his letter to the FERC. He calls on the agency to “immediately focus its investigatory resources on assessing whether market manipulation, anticompetitive behavior, or other anomalous activities are driving these ongoing elevated prices in the western gas markets.”
Yes, PG&E is preparing to give customers a credit of up to $91, which they're selling as “relief,” but it's just rearranging the seat decks. You were eventually going to get that credit anyway, it has nothing to do with the recent price hikes — they’re just moving up issuing the already scheduled credits by a month or two. PG&E did emerge from bankruptcy in the summer of 2020, but their deal to exit bankruptcy involved adding more state oversight.
And that oversight is getting a real stress by PG&E’s drive to raise rates ever-higher, in ways that sure seem to indicate “market manipulation, anticompetitive behavior, or other anomalous activities” that Newsom indicated may be at play.
Image: MONTEREY PARK, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 23: California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks to the media near the scene of a deadly mass shooting at a ballroom dance studio on January 23, 2023 in Monterey Park, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
*This post has been corrected to show that Newsom has called for an investigation into western gas markets, and not specifically into PG&E.