Anyone who thought manipulation of California energy prices ended with the criminal penalties assessed against executives of companies like Enron and Williams Energy after the state’s 2000-2001 electricity crunch turns out to have been hopelessly naive.
All the available evidence now suggests price-fixing continues not only in electric power, but that gasoline is also in play.
The six senators representing the West Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington are sending a letter to U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. today, calling for an investigation into possible manipulation of the gasoline market by refineries that serve the region.
In the letter the senators say an investigation is needed to determine whether false or misleading information was used to create a perception of a fuel supply shortage. That might have helped boost fuel prices, the senators say.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Six U.S. senators on Tuesday called for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether market manipulation by West Coast oil refiners contributed to a price spike in May and October that sent gasoline prices to record highs above $5 a gallon.
The senators, all Democrats, want the Justice Department to conduct a “refinery-by-refinery probe” and subpoena records from California refineries to see whether public reports of maintenance shutdowns were accurate. Two of the state’s largest refiners are Valero Energy Corp and Tesoro Corp.
Consumer Watchdog, saying that refineries operating in the state may have falsified information to help boost gasoline prices, wants the California attorney general to launch a criminal investigation.
The advocacy group made its request in a letter to state Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris.
“It appears that California’s oil refineries falsified public information to drive up the price of gasoline,” Consumer Watchdog’s president, Jamie Court, and energy project director, Liza Tucker, said in the letter.