California became ground zero in the electrification battle after Berkeley became the first city in the US to ban gas in new construction in July 2019. Southern California Gas Company, often referred to as SoCalGas, is one of largest gas utilities in the US and is leading the fight against policies promoting electrification in CA.
SoCalGas’ campaign against electrification escalated in February of 2019, when Bloomberg reported the launch of Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions (C4BES). Mark Chediak reported that SoCalGas was “joining a group fighting against California’s push to eliminate the fuel from every last furnace, boiler and stove.” POLITICO California Pro interviewed SoCalGas spokesperson Christine Detz, in which she “said the utility was “invited” by C4BES to join its board.” However, documents obtained by Climate Investigations Center helped reveal that SoCalGas was instrumental in the formation of C4BES.
The LA Times Editorial board subsequently wrote a critical editorial entitled: “SoCal Gas’ sleazy ‘Astroturf’ effort to keep fossil fuels flowing in California.” Facing public scrutiny, C4BES withdrew from the California Public Utility Commission’s (CPUC’s) Building Decarbonization proceeding in late August of 2019.
The LA Times exhaustively illustrated efforts by SoCalGas to fight electrification in an October 2019 article by Sammy Roth. A follow-up story reported that SoCalGas directed ratepayer funds to groups opposing electrification, including the American Public Gas Association.
Below you will find documents obtained through CA Public Records Requests.
Top Documents and Quotes
Email reveals SoCalGas recruited Chairman of C4BES
Ken Chawkins, a SoCalGas employee, emails Dr. Matt Rahn, a professor and California State University San Marcos, on September 12th, 2018 to thank him for joining the C4BES effort. Chawkins sent a subsequent welcome email on October 3rd 2018 and CC’d Jim Jamci, a PR consultant working for Marathon Communications. The emails illustrate that, despite public denials, SoCalGas was deeply involved in the creation of C4BES.
Documents released by the CPUC Office of the Public Advocate further proved SoCalGas’ role.
Board Member challenges C4BES decision making process
“I’m not sure what the process is going forward. As a BOARD MEMBER, if comments are being filed I would like to see them in advance with an opportunity to comment before they are filed. Who wrote and who reviewed these comments before they were filed? What is the process?”
SoCalGas writes media quote for Chairman of C4BES
A SoCalGas employee, Marissa Girolamo, reaches out to Matt Rahn, Chairman of C4BES, to seek approval for a quote that SoCalGas wrote for him and planned to provide to a reporter with the CA Black Media Association. Rahn approves the quote and it runs in its entirety. SoCalGas continues to claim that C4BES operates independently.
“A reporter from the CA Black Media Association has requested a quote from you for an article he is writing on the balanced energy resolutions in the Inland Empire. Below is a quote we drafted for your review. Could you please let me know by 6pm today if you have any changes? He’s hoping to publish tonight.”
“I have been asked by our senior leadership team to identify some key Latino leaders that might consider supporting the current [C4BES] effort.”
Dairy lobbyist questions the volume of “renewable natural gas” [RNG] that can reasonably injected in the grid. (For more information on RNG, see below.)
“I am on record supporting this move by SoCalGas which will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the points made by Michael [Boccadoro] should be taken seriously and it deserves careful review,” the chair, Matt Rahn, wrote in an email to C4BES board members in March. Rahn also called for a “fair, open, and transparent” conversation about the future of renewable gas.