A fight between the nation’s largest gas utility and California’s influential climate change regulators has reached a quiet conclusion — but it won’t be the last such battle as the Golden State hurries to eliminate heat-trapping fossil fuels.
Southern California Gas Co. and the California Energy Commission agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by the Los Angeles-based utility company. SoCalGas had claimed state officials were flouting a law requiring them to consider the benefits of natural gas — one of the fossil fuels responsible for the worsening fires, floods and heat waves of the climate crisis.
The company agreed to drop the suit even though the agency didn’t take the steps it demanded and has no plans to do so, Energy Commission spokesperson Lindsay Buckley said. She didn’t provide details of the settlement, which was finalized Aug. 26.
“Transitioning away from an economy that is based on fossil fuels is a necessary challenge and requires constructive dialogue and creative thinking that happens when all parties are at the table working cooperatively,” David Hochschild, who was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to chair the Energy Commission, said in a written statement.
SoCalGas wouldn’t say specifically why it agreed to drop the lawsuit, filed last year in Orange County Superior Court. Asked about the settlement, company spokesperson Christine Detz said the Energy Commission “is holding workshops and studying scenarios to help the state reach its greenhouse gas emissions goals, including the role that clean fuels like hydrogen and renewable natural gas will play.”
“We appreciate the broad and inclusive process the [commission] is taking and look forward to working together toward our shared goals,” Detz said in an email.
As California looks beyond coal — which will soon be eliminated from its power supply — it’s seeking out strategies for replacing natural gas, which is cleaner than coal and oil but still fuels climate change and releases lung-damaging air pollution.
SoCalGas has emerged as a powerful opponent of that push.
A coalition backed by the gas company and other business groups persuaded more than 100 cities and counties to pass resolutions calling for “balanced” energy policies — an attempt to slow the tide of local governments banning or discouraging gas hookups in new construction. Clean-energy advocates say replacing gas heaters and stoves with electric appliances will not only reduce planet-warming emissions but also limit indoor gas leaks that research shows can contribute to asthma and heart disease.
Read More: California settles climate lawsuit with fossil fuel giant SoCalGas