Angry about your gas bill? Spikes follow big raises for California utility executives
About a dozen angry Californians voiced their anger and frustration over high gas bills during a hearing before the California Public Utilities Commission this week.
Several Southern California residents Thursday complained to the agency that oversees the state’s public utilities about the monopoly held by Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric, which serve about 25 million customers in the area.
Companies blame the volatility in wholesale natural gas prices for the higher tariffs being passed on to consumers. But the higher rates follow recent pay rises for the company’s top executives.
According to the 2022 filings with the Securities Exchange Commission, Sempra Energy – the parent company of SoCalGas and SDG&E – rewarded its executives generously. Although net income declined in 2021, Chief Executive Jeffrey W. Martin earned nearly $25 million in total compensation that year, up from $23 million in 2020 and $20 million in 2019. Chief Finance Officer Trevor I. Mihalik earned over $7 million in 2021, and Group President Kevin C. Sagara earned over $8 million, both up from the previous year.
The deadline for public companies to submit compensation numbers for 2022 is May 1 and will be released later this year.
Sempra executives are far from the only executives at America’s companies to see pay rises as consumers pay more for products or services or endure the layoffs and furloughs caused by the pandemic.
While executive compensation increased, the company posted net income of $1.34 billion in 2021.
The pay hikes didn’t end there. Martin, Mihalik and Segara have also accumulated nearly $60 million in retirement benefits through the company’s Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan.
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 carbon credit rebate — about $50 — for 2 million homes, or about a third of the company’s natural gas meters in Southern California.
Put another way, that could cover a $500 rebate for 200,000 homes struggling with higher gas costs. If the company’s $1.34 billion in net income were also distributed, nearly 3 million households would each receive a $500 rebate.
Gas bills are expected to fall soon as SoCalGas recently announced a 68% drop in prices for February versus January. Prices will still be significantly higher than a year ago.
In response to questions about compensation, a Sempra spokesman said in a written statement that shareholders, not interest payers, pay executives. Executive compensation is “determined by criteria found in public records, including factors such as public safety, security and employee reliability,” they said.
“We encourage consumers who are experiencing difficulties to contact their local utility to discuss solutions,” the statement concluded. The company declined to say whether executives would take a pay cut this year in light of customer hardship caused by higher tariffs.
While 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 didn’t appease a frustrated caller.
“It’s 61 degrees in my apartment in Los Angeles,” the woman complained to the CPUC. Referring to the commissioners and gas managers, she added: “I’m sure you’re all comfortable.”
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-02-03/angry-about-your-gas-bill-wait-until-you-hear-about-the-big-raises-for-utility-company-executives Angry about your gas bill? Spikes follow big raises for California utility executives