Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander requested immediate action Monday by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to investigate unusually high bill increases imposed upon Southern California Gas Co. customers.
Growing concerns over the connection between high bills and the gas leak have prompted the CPUC, which regulates privately owned electric and natural gas companies, to conduct an investigation of the natural gas leak at the Aliso Canyon storage facility.
In Englander's resolution proposed to the commission, he states that affected L.A. residents have reported bills with sums up to six times higher than their usual amount for this time of year.
SoCal Gas has responded to the price hike by pointing out that L.A. is currently experiencing its coldest winter in 5 years and has implied that customers are often unaware of increases in their energy usage during winter months.
Englander claims that this explanation for the spike in gas bills is not the whole story.
"This bill spiking comes at a time when SoCal Gas is experiencing a major disaster at its Aliso Canyon facility," said Councilmember Englander. "I am simply not buying that these two incidents are not related. It appears that the entire Los Angeles basin is now feeling the effects of the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak."
Englander is not the only official to point to a connection.
California's attorney general Kamala Harris filed a lawsuit Tuesday against SoCal Gas that claims violations of state law in connection with the months-long gas leak.
"The impact of this unprecedented gas leak is devastating to families in our state, our environment, and our efforts to combat global warming," Harris said in a statement. "Southern California Gas Company must be held accountable."
California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein also jointly introduced an amendment to statewide energy legislation that would incite a federal investigation into the cause of the leak at Aliso Canyon, as well as methods to prevent similar catastrophes in the future.
"In over three months this one leak has emitted as much as half a million cars do in an entire year," Boxer said Tuesday when she introduced the amendment from the state Senate floor.
SoCal Gas has denied connection between the price hike and the Aliso Canyon gas leak.
Brittany Hope contributed to this story.