Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) – an energy company in California – settled with the California Attorney General over greenwashing allegations. The company made repeated marketing claims that natural gas is a “renewable” energy source, which the state’s Attorney General alleges is false and misleading. The settlement is the result of a complaint filed earlier this month. The Hill reports that:
“In an investigation conducted by [California Attorney General Rob] Bonta’s office — detailed in the complaint — the Attorney General alleged that SoCalGas had made misleading statements in a wide array of formats, including print, electronic media, informative displays, backdrops and promotional swag. Marketing materials were also displayed and distributed at conferences and community events, conveying slogans such as ‘Natural gas is affordable, clean, and renewable’ and ‘SoCalGas: clean, affordable, renewable,’ per the complaint.”
The AG conceded that some methods of natural gas production may be considered renewable, but the majority of gas extracted and sold by SoCalGas is the result of traditional fossil fuels extraction methods.
Under the proposed settlement, SoCalGas would forfeit $175,000 in fines, with half of those funds being allocated to the California EPA’s environmental justice-focused small grants program. An additional term of the settlement is that SoCalGas not use the term “renewable” in future natural gas marketing. SoCalGas will also be required to issue a corrective statement on their website within 14 days of the settlement’s approval. Companies should take notice that the AG’s actions were based in part on messaging methods including “informative displays, backdrops and promotional swag” – things that could escape internal reviews for potential greenwashing.