LONG BEACH, CALIF. (MAY 13 2022) — The Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners voted Thursday to request the City Council consider a proposal to consolidate Long Beach’s natural gas utility with the Long Beach Water Department.
The proposal would create one unified utility department providing gas, water and sewer services to Long Beach residents. All three utilities would be governed by the existing Board of Water Commissioners — to be renamed the Public Utilities Commission — which is made up of five Long Beach residents.
Merging gas with water and sewer is expected to result in enhanced customer service and the elimination of duplicative costs. A unified utilities department would facilitate more efficient use of staffing and equipment, reduced impacts to streets through coordinated utility pipeline repairs, and cost savings through greater economies of scale.
A consolidation would also result in greater transparency and public involvement in utility budget and rate setting, with the independent utilities commission providing a governance that is solely utility focused.
The consolidation proposal would require a change in the City Charter, which currently separates natural gas service from water and sewer service. A charter amendment requires a majority approval by voters.
The City Council is expected to consider the proposal at its public meeting on May 17.
If the Council chooses to move forward with the request, the consolidation proposal would then be heard by the city’s Charter Amendment Committee at two public hearings in the coming months. All meetings would be open to the public with opportunities for comment.
If the Committee chooses to continue with the process, the City Council would then hold a third meeting to make a final determination whether to place a charter amendment measure on the November ballot.
The Water Department currently handles both water and sewer utility services for residents and businesses. Long Beach voters approved a similar ballot measure in 1988 to consolidate the city sewer utility with the Water Department.
Currently, natural gas service is separately provided by a different city department, Long Beach Energy Resources.
For several decades, there has been consideration given to a consolidation of all city utilities. In 2020, the Water Department commissioned an independent feasibility study on potential consolidation, which can be read here.
For more information on Long Beach Water, visit LBWater.org.