Hats off to Jill Stewart for her informative article "Winter Chill Burns Homeowners as Many Gas Bills Soar" (Metro, Jan. 20) for bringing our attention to the punitive charges by the Southern California Gas Co. which were mandated by the state Legislature in 1982 for those homes that use over 72 therms a month.
Her article correctly points out that those homes using less than this 72-therm limit are getting "a very good deal" and are paying 35 cents per therm which is less than the cost of providing the service and are being subsidized by those who use more since they pay 95 cents per therm.
It is wrong for politicians to punish Californians because of harsh weather. Furthermore, this hypothetical 72-therm ration applies to a "well-insulated home" whether this dwelling houses two or 15 people! It would be more equitable to allocate the gas on a per person basis, or at least come up with a fair price for any amount of therms used. The gas companies themselves are outraged by this two-tier charging system since they are losing a lot of big industrial users.
December gas bills, sparked by the bitter cold, were a tremendous, unexpected financial burden for thousands of people. I think the governor should declare especially cold months a disaster period because of the tens of millions of dollars that are being lost by Californians through no wrongdoing of their own, and assist in the return of these losses which were unfairly assessed to homeowners of this state. When a person's gas bill can exceed his/her house payment, we know something is drastically wrong.
RICHARD R. ROHDE