Gov. Gavin Newsom asks feds to investigate California’s soaring natural gas bills

Hector Amezcua/

Gov. Gavin Newsom asked the federal government Monday to investigate why Californians are seeing unusually high natural gas bills this winter.

In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the California Democrat requested that the agency assess “whether market manipulation, anti-competitive behavior, or other anomalous activities” are driving elevated prices in the Western U.S.

Families across California are opening up their utility bills to discover eye-popping charges. Wholesale natural gas prices are up 63% since October, according to Bloomberg.

While an early burst of cold winter weather contributed to the jump, Newsom said that it “cannot explain the extent and longevity of the price spike.”

The California Public Utilities Commission last week voted to fast-track the release of credits to help Californians struggling to pay off their high utility bills. But in a statement Monday, Newsom acknowledged that it would provide “only temporary relief from soaring bills.”

“That’s why I’m asking the federal government to use its full authority to investigate the spike in natural gas prices and take any necessary enforcement actions,” Newsom said in a statement. “We’re going to get to the bottom of this because Californians deserve to know what’s behind these exorbitant bills.”

Newsom’s request for an investigation into wholesale natural gas companies comes as he also tries to push back on recent spikes in gasoline prices.

The Democratic governor has launched a campaign to impose a penalty on oil companies when their refinery profits rise above a certain threshold and to use the revenue to provide consumer rebates. Newsom called for a special session last year to tackle the proposal but lawmakers have not yet made any substantial progress.