SOUTHWEST GAS CELEBRATES ‘RECORD REVENUE’ WHILE ARIZONA RATEPAYERS SHOULDER THE BURDEN OF RATE HIKES, HIGHER UTILITY BILLS
Scott Bourque, Arizona Veterans Forward
Ida Sami, Moms Clean Air Force/EcoMadres
Zach Williams, Physicians for Social Responsibility
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SOUTHWEST GAS CELEBRATES ‘RECORD REVENUE’ WHILE ARIZONA
RATEPAYERS SHOULDER THE BURDEN OF RATE HIKES, HIGHER UTILITY BILLS
PHOENIX (June 12, 2023) – On the heels of back-to-back rate hikes in Arizona, Southwest Gas and its shareholders are celebrating the “largest revenue increase in company history,” according to the utility’s first-quarter earnings release.
As nonprofit groups championing consumer protections, public health and climate mitigation, we are calling on Southwest Gas to immediately return these profits to customers, families and small-businesses who have been impacted by the utility’s large and untimely rate increases.
In January, Southwest Gas received approval from the Arizona Corporation Commission to raise rates on Arizona residential customers by 7.6 percent on average. Small businesses fared even worse, receiving a 13.6 percent rate hike on average. It was the second rate hike in two years imposed on Arizona customers.
Besides the recent Southwest Gas rate hike, the Arizona Corporation Commission will decide on two additional utility rate hikes this year requested by Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power.
Our utility regulators can and should do more to protect consumer interests, and they can start by reducing subsidies and incentives that increase our reliance on methane gas, a volatile fossil fuel that earlier this year skyrocketed in price. Utilities routinely pass these rising costs directly to consumers, resulting in higher bills.
The latest rate increase proved to be a windfall for Southwest Gas on the backs of hard-working families. It came at a time of rising methane gas prices, record inflation and a slowing economy. While many Arizona customers struggle to pay their bills, Southwest Gas reaped $54.3 million in record revenue, according to its May 2023 report to stockholders. That statement was listed under the heading “notable accomplishments.”
“… We are excited about Southwest Gas’ future as a pure-play natural gas leader as we focus on delivering continued earnings growth,” said Southwest Gas President & CEO, Karen S. Haller.
Haller earns an astonishing $4,355,798 in executive compensation.
Before the rate hike was approved by utility regulators, Southwest Gas was hard at work recruiting elected officials to back the rate case. Records show that mayors in nine Arizona cities signed on to a letter of support, which later was revealed to be drafted by Southwest Gas itself. The tactic raised concerns among our groups and others that the utility was orchestrating an effort to show “organic” support among local leaders, when it was actually a choreographed campaign.
As Southwest Gas fights to boost revenue, the company neglects to tell consumers that gas appliances emit harmful pollutants in homes that contribute to respiratory illnesses, especially in children and seniors.
Gas companies won’t tell you that gas poses significant health and safety risks to people and communities, and the main component in gas, methane, is a harmful fossil fuel and powerful climate pollutant.
“Southwest Gas serves thousands of veterans with serious service connected disabilities who are unable to work and rely on pensions from the VA,” said Arizona VetsForward Executive Director Aaron Marquez. “Southwest Gas executives have enriched themselves off the backs of disabled veterans and other Arizonans struggling to make ends meet. They should immediately send refund checks to all customers.”
“Southwest Gas rate increases disproportionately impact low-income and marginalized communities, and come at a time where 1 in 5 people living in the U.S. are already struggling to pay their high energy bills,” said Moms Clean Air Force Arizona Field Coordinator Dr. Ida Sami. “With a growing climate crisis and the numerous health impacts made worse by fossil fuels, it is unconscionable to be paying more to risk the health of our families..”
“As medical professionals, we are increasingly concerned by the use of methane gas in homes and other buildings, which can lead to childhood asthma, increased susceptibility to respiratory infections, and neurological damage, all while it contributes to advancing climate change” said Physicians for Social Responsibility Arizona Chapter Executive Director, Dr. Barbara Warren, M.D., MPH. “So it’s shameful that one of the largest gas utilities in the country continues to reap record increases in revenue while failing to admit, let alone educate, the public on the significant health and safety impacts of the fossil fuel it sells and pipes into homes.”
About Arizona VetsForward: VetsForward is a grassroots organization that deploys military veteran voices to defend democracy and values that are important to the veteran community.
About Moms Clean Air Force: The mission of Moms Clean Air Force is to protect children from air pollution and climate change. We envision a safe, stable, and equitable future where all children breathe clean air. We fight for Justice in Every Breath, recognizing the importance of equitable solutions in addressing air pollution and climate change.
About Physicians for Social Responsibility: Physicians for Social Responsibility is a health professional nonprofit that uses medical and public health expertise to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation and nuclear war, reverse our trajectory towards environmental and life threatening climate change, protect the public from the harms of fossil fuels, and expand widespread use of clean, safe, renewable energy.