Southern California Gas Company will pay $175,000 in penalties for misleading consumers about the environmental attributes of natural gas, officials announced on Aug. 14.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the settlement in connection with “numerous unqualified environmental marketing claims” the utility made in 2019 that natural gas is “renewable,” according to a release.
Such claims are misleading because the vast majority of natural gas—including a majority of the gas distributed by SoCalGas—is not renewable, but rather is derived from fossil fuels, according to the attorney general’s office.
Chris Gilbride, SoCalGas spokesperson, said the utility is “pleased to have cooperatively resolved” the matter.
“SoCalGas remains committed to delivering increasingly renewable natural gas and other clean fuels to its customers,” he said. “This is part of our aim to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions in our operations and delivery of energy by 2045.”
According to Mr. Bonta, an investigation by the attorney general’s office determined that SoCalGas made the misleading statements in a wide range of mediums, including print, electronic media, informative displays, backdrops, and promotional swag.
“While we appreciate its cooperation in our investigation, SoCalGas should have known better than to broadcast unqualified claims suggesting that all natural gas is ’renewable.' Truth in marketing matters, and it’s required under state law,” Mr. Bonta said in a statement.
“Today’s settlement should send a clear message: The California Department of Justice is committed to holding accountable corporations that mislead or deceive consumers about the environmental attributes of a product.”
The attorney general’s office said that under the settlement—which resolves allegations that SoCalGas violated California’s consumer protection laws—SoCalGas will be prohibited from making similar unqualified statements, pay $175,000 in penalties, 50 percent—$87,500—of which will be directed to the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice Small Grants Program to fund a Supplemental Environmental Project focused on environmental justice, and publish a corrective statement on its website within 14 days of the settlement’s effective date.
A final judgment in the case is expected on Oct. 19 in Superior Court in Oakland.