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California Utility Regulators Open Public Inquiry on High Winter Natural Gas Prices

The California Public Utilities Commission on March 16 launched a proceeding to investigate the causes and impacts of the winter 2022- 2023 natural gas price spikes and the potential for recurrence and the impact of the price spikes on natural gas and electric prices and customer bills.

The proceeding will also look at the potential threats to natural gas and electric reliability and price volatility in summer 2023 and beyond, and potential mitigations and utility communications to customers to determine whether they were sufficient or require modifications.

The wholesale price of natural gas in California, and throughout the Western U.S., has been extraordinarily high this winter, starting in late November 2022.

In February 2023, natural gas prices trended downward but are still high compared to February 2022. As a result, customers have seen higher bills from their utility company, which pass on the cost they pay for natural gas directly to the customer without a mark-up, the PUC said.

The examination in the proceeding opened March 16 will include whether factors beyond normal market forces were at play, determine whether action by the CPUC may prevent or mitigate future price spikes, and consider whether other entities have jurisdiction to mitigate high natural gas prices.

The proposal voted on is available here.