SoCal Gas spent millions on astroturf ops to fight climate rules

And then fraudulently billed it all to their customers.

Cory Doctorow


A wood-panelled public meeting room with a full gallery. A marionette stands at a mic, testifying. On the wall is the logo for SoCal Gas. Image; Maryland GovPics (modified) Jackie (modified) CC BY 2.0

Today (19 Aug), I’m appearing at the San Diego Union-Tribune Festival of Books. I’m on a 2:30PM panel called “Return From Retirement,” followed by a signing:

It’s a breathtaking fraud: SoCal Gas, the largest gas company in America, spent millions secretly paying people to oppose California environmental regulations, then illegally stuck its customers with the bill. We Californians were forced to pay to lobby against our own survival:

The criminal scheme is spelled out in eye-watering detail in a superb investigative report by Joe Rubin and Ari Plachta for the Sacramento Bee, which names the law firms and individual lawyers involved in the scam.

Here’s the situation: SoCal Gas is California’s private, regulated gas monopoly. They are allowed to lobby, but are legally required to charge their lobbying activities to their shareholders, and are prohibited from raising customer rates to pay for lobbying.

The company spent years secretly violating this rule, in the sleaziest way possible: working with corporate cartels like the California Restaurant Association and BizFed, the monopoly paid BigLaw white-shoe firms to procure people who posed as concerned citizens in order to oppose climate regulations that are essential to the state’s very survival.

The bill topped $36 million — and it was illegally charged to its customers, the Californians whose immediate health and long-term survival these efforts opposed. SoCal Gas refuses to disclose the full extent of the spending, as do its lawyer-procurers, who cite legal confidentiality and a First Amendment right to secretly seek to influence policy in their refusal to disclose their profits from this illegal conduct.

The law firms involved are a who’s-who of California’s most prominent corporate fixers, including Reichman Jorgensen and Holland & Knight. The partners involved have a long rap sheet for anti-climate dirty tricking, most notably Jennifer…