Long Beach Utilities customers will see a substantial decrease in how much they’re charged for natural gas after the department posted its March pricing Wednesday, which showed a 45% decrease from February.

The price per therm, the unit the department charges customers for, was $1.28 in February. In March it will drop to about 71 cents per therm. The decrease follows a 66% drop from January’s pricing, which topped $3.81 per therm and led to historically high gas bills for customers.

The price customers will pay in March will be about 18% of what they paid in January.

“The March cost of gas is welcome news for our customers,” Long Beach Utilities General Manager Chris Garner said in a statement. “As we come out of this crisis, we are committed to helping our customers recover while working to ensure greater price stability going forward.”

SoCalGas, the country’s largest supplier, which provides gas to nearly every city in the region other than Long Beach and Signal Hill, reported a similar decrease, but its rate will be about 11 cents lower, at just under 60 cents per therm.

Lauren Howland, a spokesperson for the Long Beach department said that while the city’s utility has been consistently higher that SoCalGas, the city’s transmission rate, which factors into the monthly bill, is less than SoCalGas.

The department attributed the decrease in price to a drop in demand as the spring months approach and to completed pipeline maintenance, which had reduced the volume of natural gas being transported into California during the winter.

The news comes as a winter storm that brought cold weather, wind and even reports of snow to Long Beach. However, cold weather is expected to persist at least through the end of next week, with nighttime temperatures in the low 40s projected over the next 10 days.

The decrease should result in substantial savings for residents compared to the previous three months. This will be the lowest rate paid by Long Beach utilities customers since April 2022 when the charge assessed to customers was about 52 cents per therm.

Last month, the Utilities Commission approved a $7.5 million relief fund to help people pay their large December and January bills. It provided a one-time credit of $45 to all account holders regardless of income level but provided larger additional credits to low-income seniors or those with disabilities ($200) and other low-income households ($150).

To be eligible for those credits, low-income households must also sign up for the department’s subsidy programs by the end of March. Those monthly programs provide additional savings on utility charges and exempt customers from some taxes charged to customers.

The commission reserved $575,000 of that fund to help people who self-attested to having a financial need, even if they weren’t low income. Those accountholders are eligible for a $100 credit.

Howland said that while the department has made progress in getting people signed up for these savings programs, there are still credits that have gone unclaimed.

Howland said that the department has issued 6,633 bill credits across all categories, with the most coming from the low-income category (3,319). The total represents about $7 million in aid.

There is still available funding for people who are not low income, as just 1,390 of the $100 credits have been issued. The department estimated that the $575,000 in funds set aside could help 5,750 households.

To apply for assistance you can visit the Utilities Department website here

Long Beach residents can now apply to receive $100 toward their next gas bill

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.