Angry about your gas bill? The spikes follow big increases for California utility leaders

A dozen enraged Californians expressed their anger and frustration over high gas bills at a California Public Utilities Commission hearing this week.

Several Southern California residents complained Thursday to the agency that oversees state utilities about the monopoly power of Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric, which serve some 25 million customers in the region.

Companies have blamed wholesale natural gas price volatility for higher rates being passed on to consumers. But the higher rates follow recent salary increases for the company’s top executives.

According to 2022 filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Sempra Energy — the parent company of SoCalGas and SDG&E — generously rewarded its executives. Although net income declined in 2021, chief executive Jeffrey W. Martin earned nearly $25 million in total compensation that year, compared to $23 million in 2020 and $20 million in 2019. financier Trevor I. Mihalik received more than $7 million in 2021, and group chairman Kevin C. Sagara earned more than $8 million, both up from the previous year.

The deadline for publicly traded companies to file compensation numbers for 2022 is May 1, and the information won’t be made public until later this year.

Sempra executives are far from the only corporate American executives to see their pay rise as consumers pay more for products or services or suffer the layoffs and furloughs inflicted by the pandemic.

While executive pay has increased, the company reported net income of $1.34 billion in 2021, compared to $4.17 billion in 2020 and $1.86 billion in 2019, according to another filing. the SEC.

The pay increases didn’t stop there. Martin, Mihalik and Sagara also accrued pension benefits under the company’s Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan, totaling nearly $60 million.

In total, the company’s obligations to the three executives at the end of 2021 totaled approximately $100 million.

If that sounds like a big number, it is. That would be enough to pay the climate credit refund — about $50 — for 2 million homes, or about a third of the company’s natural gas meters in Southern California.

In other words, it could cover a $500 rebate for 200,000 households struggling with the higher cost of gas. If the company’s net income of $1.34 billion was equally distributed, nearly 3 million households would each receive a $500 rebate.

Gas bills are expected to start falling soon, as SoCalGas recently announced a 68% drop in prices for February compared to January. Prices will still be significantly higher than a year ago.

In response to questions about pay, a Sempra spokesperson said in a written statement that shareholders, not taxpayers, pay executives. Executive compensation is “determined by criteria listed in public documents that include factors such as public safety, security and reliability of employees,” they said.

“We encourage consumers who are struggling to contact their local utility to discuss solutions,” the statement concludes. The company declined to say whether executives would take a pay cut this year in light of customer hardship caused by higher rates.

Although the commission voted unanimously to expedite the payment of a $50.77 annual credit to SoCalGas customers and a $43.40 credit to SDG&E customers, that did not appease a frustrated caller.

“It’s 61 degrees in my Los Angeles apartment,” the woman complained to the CPUC. Referring to commission members and gas executives, she added, “I’m sure you’re all comfortable.”

Los Angeles Times

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