TORRANCE TRIBUNE March 3, 2016 Page 3 Community Briefs ‘Monster’ Gas Company Bills Investigated ON MARCH 17 CELEBRATE ST. PATRICK’S DAY AT THE BOWL & PARTY ALL DAY LONG! FOOD SPECIALS GREEN BEER LIVE MUSIC WEAR GREEN & when you buy one game of bowling you’ll GET ANOTHER GAME FREE when lanes are available For more information please call Charlotte at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 310.326.5120 By Rob McCarthy A preliminary investigation found no irregularities with Southern Gas Company bills that tripled home-heating costs in December and January and created suspicions that a massive gas leak near Porter Ranch was already costing customers. Mark Pocta, spokesman for the Office of Ratepayer Advocate in San Francisco, told the Herald Publications that chilly weather and higher gas usage were behind the run-up in household utility bills. His office reviewed customer bills after receiving complaints from SoCal Gas households about higherthan normal winter bills. “We’ve looked at SoCal Gas rates and their rates really have not changed significantly over the past approximately five months since September,” Pocta said. Public speculation was that the Aliso Canyon storage leak was being charged already to gas customers. Another theory was the Gas Co. raised rates but didn’t announce it. The Ratepayer Advocate Office said neither was true, and that its initial investigation had a simpler explanation. “We’ve talked to a number of people about this issue, and we think that the issue is likely related to cold weather during the winter, so the bills have been higher.” The Ratepayer Advocate is a unit of the Public Utilities Commission. The office advocates for customer and environmental protections while working to obtain the lowest rate for public utility service. This winter has been the coldest since 2011, the Gas Co. said after the public outcry over bills for December and January. Customers in winter use up to seven times more gas for home heating, explained in a newsletter sent out last week. The Los Angeles City Council in mid- January called on the commission to investigate SoCal Gas bills for winter heating. Councilman Mitch Englander said his $60 monthly bill jumped to $200 in January. He questioned whether the smart meters used by The Gas Co. were accurate. The California Public Utilities Commission is investigating the complaints by Southern Californians who were shocked to see their home-heating bills three times the norm to start 2016, said spokesman Christopher Chow. The commission’s early findings found chilly weather that had residents cranking up the thermostat. “Home heating drives most of the residential gas bills so cold weather will increase gas bills,” Chow said. The December billing period was longer by two to four days for some customers, a result of the holidays. January’s billing period reflected in February bills was two to four days shorter, Chow explained. The drilling operation to cap the leak near Porter Ranch is not costing customers, he said. SoCal Gas said it stopped the methanegas leak on Feb. 12, four months after San Fernando Valley residents began complaining about a strong odor, nausea, headaches and nosebleeds, according to health officials. “None of the costs incurred by SoCalGas to resolve the Aliso Canyon Storage Field leak are included in customer rates,” Chow said. Residential gas rates were slightly higher in December for the typical customer because the wholesale price of natural gas rose 4 percent, according to the commission spokesman. So- Cal Gas passes along the higher wholesale cost to its customers. On top of the wholesale price increase, residential usage in December nearly doubled from the month before, according to the Public Utilities Commission. The commission continues to investigate specific high bills that are cannot be explained by the weather, higher usage or holiday billing period, Chow said. It’s likely that February bills will be lower because of unseasonably hot weather. Metereologists say that high pressure settled over the region, reversing the El Nino effect. They expect the heaviest of the winter storms to arrive in March and April. Westside residents complained to L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin that December and January’s gas bills were pricey even for the winter. At least one Porter Ranch resident who stayed in his home told the L.A. Daily News his monthly bill was more than three times the $100 amount he and his wife pay to heat their 1,800-square-foot home. “Suddenly, I get this monster bill,” Arthur Kalnit said. A newsletter mailed last week to gas customers contained “Winter Billing FAQs.” Half of a household’s winter bill is for home heating. The water heater accounts for 25 percent of the bill. Without realizing it, household customers use between three and seven times more gas in the winter than other months, the newsletter said. Consumers who think their winter bills are inaccurate should contact SoCal Gas to go over their usage, and if they are not satisfied with the outcome, to file a complaint with the Public Utilities Commission. The web site to make a complaint is www.cpuc.ca.gov/complaints. • El Camino College Art Gallery to Present “Culture Clash” Visit us online: www.heraldpublications.com The El Camino College Art Gallery will present a mid-career retrospective of the highly energized ceramic works of Keiko Fukazawa. “Culture Clash” spans a period of approximately 30 years and seeks to represent a broad view of this fascinating artist who moves from culture to culture, assimilating ideas and techniques. “Culture Clash” runs from Feb. 29-March 31 in the ECC Art Gallery. A reception is scheduled for 7-9 p.m. March 3, with a gallery walk-through with Fukazawa at 1 p.m. March 8. Keiko Fukazawa was born and raised in Japan where she studied art at the Musashino Art University in Tokyo. Here she was stifled by the viewpoint at the time that women were not to be taken seriously as contemporary artists. Fukazawa’s mother, who was a non-traditional person herself, had wanted to be a painter. As this was unaccepted by her generation, she became an excellent and creative cook, while supporting the viewpoint of her unconventional daughter. The El Camino College Art Gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays and from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays. For more information, call 310- 660-3010. Admission to the El Camino College Art Gallery and gallery events is free. On-campus parking is $3. More Frog Fitness Throwdown Frog Fitness founder and CEO, Richard Pearce awards two lucky contestants with tickets provided by AMP Radio to see Kid Cudi at the Hollywood Palladium. Photos by Daniel Huipe. Athletes take their marks as the competition kicks off! Photos by Daniel Huipe. Mike O’Hearn greets fans at the 1st Annual Frog Fitness Throwdown, held at the Powerhouse Gym in Torrance. Photos by Daniel Huipe.
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