Dennis Arriola Named New Head of Southern California Gas Co

By Smith, Kevin | Pasadena Star-News, April 7, 2014 | Go to article overview

Dennis Arriola Named New Head of Southern California Gas Co


Smith, Kevin, Pasadena Star-News


When you're in charge of 8,200 employees it pays to know what's coming down the pipeline.

And Dennis Arriola has plenty of pipelines to keep track of. As the newly appointed CEO of Southern California Gas Co., Arriola oversees a service territory that encompasses 20,000 square miles in diverse terrain throughout Central and Southern California, running from Visalia to the Mexican border.

And those pipes?

"We have about 100,000 miles of the lower-pressure distribution pipes that run up and down the street to your home," the 53-year- old Santa Monica resident said. "And then we have about 3,000 more miles of the higher pressure pipes - transmission lines, if you will - that bring gas in from different parts of the state."

Headquartered in Los Angeles, SoCalGas is a regulated subsidiary of San Diego-based Sempra Energy, a Fortune 500 energy services holding company. Arriola spent most of the past 20 years in a broad range of leadership roles with Sempra Energy companies.

He left in 2008 to become executive vice president and chief financial officer for SunPower Corp., a Silicon Valley-based solar panel manufacturer, but rejoined SoCalGas in 2012 to serve as president and chief operating officer before assuming his current role as CEO.

He succeeds Anne Shen Smith, who retired after 36 years with the company.

"I am thrilled," Arriola said. "This is exciting for a lot of reasons. We have a great reputation in the community with our customers and we have a fantastic employee base. We tend to thrive when there are challenges. It's an exciting time to be in the natural gas industry from the standpoint of both technical challenges and environmental issues."

Willis B. Wood Jr., former chairman and CEO of Pacific Enterprises, SoCalGas's parent company, said Arriola is a good fit for the company.

He ought to know because he hired Arriola 20 years ago.

"He was a very bright young man - just the kind of person we were looking for," Wood said. "To be in the position he's in now you have to be a person who is very broad. You have to have broad experience and a clear understanding of what's going on."

Arriola, who has a master's degree in business administration from Harvard University and a bachelor's degree in economics from Stanford University, has proven that he has all of that.

Arriola developed his work ethic early on, supplementing his college tuition costs by working in the school library, the cafeteria and cleaning homes.

As the son of Mexican immigrant parents with six children, he received a foundation of love and support that encouraged him to succeed.

"What they wanted was a better life for their kids," he said. "They stressed speaking English and they said whatever you do, be proud of it and do it well."

These days, he's focused on the big picture. He considers natural gas to be "the energy of possibility."

"It is a foundational fuel that can power a clean environment and propel our nation toward energy independence," he said.

Arriola noted that compressed natural gas-powered vehicles reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 to 30 percent when compared with gas or diesel-powered cars. And natural gas costs about half as much as gasoline.

"As we look at opportunities here in Southern California with our driving culture, we're working with automakers to bring more natural gas vehicles here," he said. "The Honda Civic has a compressed natural gas model, but that's the only one available here in Southern California. …

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