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Californians are getting hit with outrageously high natural gas bills this January as utility companies pass on the increased costs of procuring gas to customers.

According to SoCalGas, which serves most of Southern California, prices are running about five times higher than last January.

Among the reasons, below-normal temperatures along the West Coast which has led to higher demand, reduced supplies from Canada and the Rocky Mountains, low storage levels in the western U.S., and pipeline maintenance in West Texas.

“SoCalGas does not set the price for natural gas,” the utility says. “Instead, natural gas prices are determined by national and regional markets. SoCalGas buys natural gas in those markets on behalf of residential and small business customers, and the cost of buying that gas is billed to those customers with no markup, meaning SoCalGas does not profit from the movement of gas commodity prices.”

Regardless of the reasons why gas bills are soaring, Californians are feeling the pinch. If you are having trouble paying your bill, there are some resources available.

The Gas Assistance Fund through SoCalGas is offering one-time grants of up to $100 for qualifying customers. To qualify, you must meet several requirements:

  • The natural gas bill must be in the name of the applicant requesting assistance.
  • The bill address must be the applicant’s primary residence.
  • The applicant must not apply for more than the maximum GAF allowance for the current program year.
  • The applicant must meet the income guidelines listed below:
Number of people in the householdTotal yearly household income* not more than

SoCalGas recently announced a $1 million contribution to the GAF, which will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, the utility said.

SoCalGas also announced it is delaying collections on overdue accounts until April 1 and will not disconnect overdue customers during the first half of the year.

SoCalGas recommends the following tips to reduce your natural gas bill:

  • Lowering your thermostat three to five degrees – if health permits – can save up to 10 percent on heating costs.
  • Installing proper caulking and weather-stripping can save roughly 10 to 15 percent on heating and cooling bills.
  • Washing clothes in cold water to save up to 10 percent on water heating costs.
  • Considering turning down the temperature on your water heater.
  • Limiting use of non-essential natural gas appliances such as spas and fireplaces.

Most natural gas in California comes from out-of-state basins, according to the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates utility rates. In 2017, California utility customers received 38% of their natural gas supply from the Southwest, 27% from Canada, 27% from the U.S. Rocky Mountain region, and 8% from production in California.