Posted: October 10, 2022
Washington – Today, Reps. Mike Thompson (CA-05) and Mike Levin (CA-49) are leading 29 House colleagues demanding an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) into potential non-competitive practices, anti-consumer behavior, and market manipulation by California oil refineries. At least six California refineries have gone offline for maintenance in recent weeks, and gas prices have spiked far beyond the national average without a clear explanation from industry leaders about why refineries are offline at the same time or why California prices have diverged from national averages in an unprecedented way.
“While maintenance is a normal occurrence at refineries, this degree of divergence from national prices is unprecedented, regardless of planned or unplanned refinery maintenance,” the members wrote in the letter. “Even as gas prices continue to increase, the industry has provided no clear explanation on why prices are rising so rapidly as well as how refineries are making decisions about maintenance or outages. At moments of significant financial hardship for Californians, refiners should be transparent on market dynamics.”
“We urge the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in collaboration with the Department of Justice, the Department of Energy, and the California Department of Justice, to use its existing authorities to launch an investigation into any potential anti-consumer behavior and market manipulation within California’s transportation fuel markets,” they wrote. “While refiners and other actors may want to continue operating without transparency and accountability, our constituents deserve to know whether these companies are manipulating markets at the expense of everyday Americans, including through any collusion or coordination to affect refining capacity or inventory levels. Our constituents deserve to know why gas prices in California continue to rise even as the price of oil has not. We urge you to immediately investigate the business practices of refiners across California to analyze whether these companies may be engaging in any anti-consumer behavior.”
The letter is signed by Representatives Pete Aguilar (CA-31), Nanette Barragán (CA-44), Karen Bass (CA-37), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), John Garamendi (CA-03), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Katie Porter (CA-45), Brad Sherman (CA-30), Mark Takano (CA-41),), Norma Torres (CA-35), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), Alan Lowenthal (D-47), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Adam Schiff (CA-28), Raul Ruiz (CA-36), and Judy Chu (CA-27).
In the letter, the representatives recognized the important action by Governor Newsom to direct the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to allow for an early transition to winter-blend gasoline, which typically reduces gas prices, and noted the relief that the state’s Middle Class Tax Refund will provide for Californians. They also highlighted House passage of the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, which would crack down on any oil and gas companies that are distorting or manipulating fuel markets by strengthening the FTC’s authority to address disinformation in oil and gas markets that is meant to inflate retail prices for consumers.
Click here to see the full letter.