California Introduces Landmark Utility Accountability Legislation

Today, California State Sen. Dave Min introduced new legislation to prevent utility companies from using ratepayers’ money to fund political lobbying efforts. By closing existing loopholes and strengthening enforcement measures, the bill will protect California customers from unknowingly bankrolling gas and electric companies’ fights against climate action. A bipartisan national majority thinks utility companies should not be spending ratepayer dollars on their private priorities.

The new legislation will also block utility companies from using customer money to pay for trade industry association fees to do their lobbying for them—like membership fees for utility lobbying group Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the group at the forefront of the effort to roll back recent climate pollution regulations for power plants (and which is chaired by Southern California Edison boss Pedro Pizarro), or the American Gas Association (AGA), which has also been trying to kill climate rules. 

In response to the bill’s introduction, Evergreen Action Vice President Craig Segall released the following statement:

“No one wants utilities skimming from our power bills to lobby for their own shadowy purposes. Worse, though utilities are supposed to serve the public good, they often plow our money into attacks on climate action the public wants and needs. The climate crisis is a threat to the power grid and to ratepayers, so it’s time to make sure utilities don’t have a slush fund to make it worse.”

“With this law, California can maintain its legacy as a national leader in climate action and hold utilities accountable for trying to shackle folks to expensive and polluting fossil fuels. Anti-climate lobbying efforts increase customer bills and worsen Californians’ health, with disadvantaged communities hit the hardest. We applaud Sen. Min for introducing this bill and strongly urge swift action by the Legislature to pass this law.”

Similar legislation has already been passed in Connecticut, Colorado, and Maine and could signal a crucial national shift in utility transparency and accountability. As drafted, the bill would be the strongest utility accountability reform in the country and would establish a roadmap for other states to follow.