Markey Asks Feds to Investigate Gas Price Gouging in New England

Also seeking more home heating oil assistance funding

Ed Markey

WASHINGTON -- Even as crude oil prices have receded from summer highs, gasoline prices in New England and in other parts of the country have not, raising price gouging and manipulation as potential causes of this abnormality in the fuel market, the senior member of the Energy & Commerce Committee, U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is alleging.

In a letter sent to the head of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Markey is asking the agency to investigate potential price manipulation that may be the cause of harm to New England families and businesses. Markey also expressed concern that potential manipulation could affect home heating oil prices, "delivering a one-two punch" to New England families.

"It is critical that any abnormalities in the gasoline markets be dealt with immediately. If fuel prices are being kept unnaturally high by manipulation, the consequences for consumers and our economy could be significant," wrote Markey. "Inflated gas prices would mean that consumers will have less money available to spend elsewhere, damaging the nascent economic recovery."

Markey said that while prices have risen substantially in California due to refinery outages, most of the rest of the country is seeing gasoline prices steadily ease as a result of falling crude prices--yet New England has neither regional refinery outages nor receding prices. Gasoline prices in the region have risen by four cents a gallon since September 10, according to data cited by Markery. Crude oil prices are similar to what they were in mid-July, yet gasoline prices in New England are more than 40 cents per gallon higher today than they were in mid-July, he said.

Click here to read Markey's full letter to the FTC.

Families in New England are also facing higher costs for heating oil as the winter heating season approaches. The EIA forecasts that households heating with heating oil are already set to see their costs rise by $407 dollars this winter to nearly $2,500, Markey said.

"Costs to heat with heating oil have increased nearly $1,000 over the last six years, which is part of the reason why we have had 1.4 million families switch away from home heating oil in the Northeast over the last eight years," he said. "If the price of fuel oil is being manipulated, consumers are being gouged first at the pump, then again at the oil furnace."

A bipartisan coalition of 91 members of the House of Representatives  joined Markey in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health &d Human Services (HHS) calling for the immediate release of as much Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding as possible under the current continuing resolution.

"We believe it is critical that the state begin the process of assisting those individuals with the greatest need immediately," the lawmakers wrote. "With forecasts for above-normal snowfall for all major I-95 cities, including New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore, the timing is critical."

Click here to view the full letter to HHS.