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CALIFORNIA : SOUTHLAND FOCUS / ENERGY : Bill Outlawing Natural Gas Deregulation Passes

September 09, 1999|Nancy Rivera Brooks

The retail natural gas business has been all but pushed off the road to deregulation, previously traveled by California's electricity industry, after a bill was passed late last week by both houses of the Legislature. The bill, AB 1421 by Assemblyman Roderick Wright (D-Los Angeles), forbids the California Public Utilities Commission to "unbundle" the natural gas services purchased by residential and small-business users or allow those customers to buy natural gas from companies other than the utilities that control that business. Utility unions have opposed natural gas deregulation, contending that an open market would attract new, perhaps poorly trained companies looking to profit from lighting pilot lights, checking appliances and searching for gas leaks. The natural gas market for large customers, such as factories, was deregulated several years ago. Those users will continue to be able to buy natural gas from any provider they choose. The bill will move to the governor's office for his signature.

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