LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- As Californians struggle to pay sky-high natural gas bills, utility access activists are encouraging people to contact state regulators.
Mark Toney is the executive director of The Utilities Reform Network, a nonprofit also known as TURN that is working to ensure utilities are clean, safe and affordable.
He said people who are upset about the sudden jump in their SoCalGas bills need to call in to Thursday's upcoming California Public Utilities Commission meeting and voice their anger.
"We're just very concerned that this is out of control and something needs to be done to moderate these type of price spikes," he told Eyewitness News.
SoCalGas said the wholesale price of natural gas has skyrocketed this winter, now up 128% just from December to January. The company is warning customers that if their peak winter bill was around $130 last year, it will most likely jump to roughly $315 this year.
Crestline resident Dennis Duvall is recovering from triple bypass surgery and suffers from Lupus. Those health issues keep him in the house around the clock with the thermostat set at about 75 degrees.
His latest bill was $918.75.
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"I've got to pay it," he said. "I've got to keep the heat on. It's going to be very hard."
Dave Miner of Crestline just saw his gas bill shoot up to $700.
"It's taking money away from my kids, it's taking money away from my grocery bill," Miner said.
Toney said many California residents with medical problems qualify for programs like Medical Baseline to help bring utility costs down.
"They can sign up for Medical Baseline for the gas and get a reduced price and additional protections against shut-off if you fall behind on your bill," said Toney.
Other tips to save gas?
"Turn down the thermostat if your health and your family's health allows it, rely a little bit more on sweaters, blankets, closing off the vents in rooms that you're not using," Toney advises.