Fuels

Granholm Grandstanding

Michigan governor announces more station inspections

LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm said yesterday that her administration will increase gasoline pump inspections. The governor has requested that Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) Director Mitch Irwin immediately transfer staff internally to increase inspections at gas stations. She also announced that the MDA will use $1.3 million appropriated by the state legislature to hire additional inspectors.

With the national and international markets for gasoline and oil soaring out of control and the federal government sitting [image-nocss] passively on the sideline, no single state has the power to control gas prices. So we must make sure, at the very least, that we use the power we do haveto ensure that consumers are getting what they pay forespecially right now, when we are paying too much, said Granholm. We will increase inspections to ensure that gas station equipment is working properly and to ensure that every complaint receives a thorough investigation.

In addition to increased inspections, Granholm called for legislation to require that gas station operators prove their pumps have been calibrated and are working properly when they apply for renewal of their operator's license. State law requires that licenses are renewed annually.

And the governor said she is sending a letter to the federal Commodities Futures Trading Board requesting that they conduct an inquiry into all contributing factors in the recent price spikes, including any role speculators have played in driving the inflation-adjusted price of oil and gasoline toward historic high levels.

With gasoline prices increasing at more than 10 times the general inflation rate over the past year, market participants at every level should welcome an immediate, aggressive and thorough review of all factors contributing to near record-high fuel prices, Granholm said.

The governor announced that the $1.3 million would be used to hire an additional 10 inspectors in the next 30 days and a total of 16 in the coming months. The additional staff will help MDA respond to a growing volume of consumer complaints. In the last two weeks alone, MDA has received more than 75 complaints related to the purchase of gasoline, it said.

Increasing our inspection staff will allow us to double the number of gas stations and petroleum distributors that we inspect each year, said Irwin. That presence will help ensure customers that they are getting every penny in gasoline, diesel, and home heating fuel that they pay for.

According to the governor''s press statement, duringits May Day to Labor Day Project last summer, MDA found that 29% of the state's gasoline pumps surveyed failed to meet quality standards, including incorrect octane levels and sediment or water in the gas. An additional 12% failed to meet quantity standards meaning customers were paying for a different amount of gas than they received. As a result of the increased inspections, the number of fines issued more than doubled last year.

But Mark A. Griffin, president of the Michigan Petroleum Association and the Michigan Association of Convenience Stores, told CSP Daily News: "While we welcome Governor Granholm showing leadership by calling for more inspectors in Michigan, we do want to point out that her press release has an error in it..... Itincorrectly states that 29% of pumps in the state had quality problems and 12% in the state had quantity problems. This is false. It should be noted that those statistics would apply only to the 950 locations visited, not to all 5,000 locations statewide.In fact, upon further investigation of the MDA study, it should be noted that only 42 of 953 locations were issued fines for quality violations, and onlyeight of 953 locations were issued violations for quantity violations.This is 4.4% and 0.8%, respectively.I realize this is not as sexy as some of the other numbers bandied about, but for us and this issue, they appear to be the only relevant ones."

Granholm did say that most gas station operators are honorable members of Michigan's businesses community. The increased inspectors will ensure not only that customers get what they pay for, but that those operators who would cheat the market do not try to gain an unfair edge in the marketplace.

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