West Coast Lawmakers Address Inflation at the Pump

Oregon bill would allow self-service dispensing, while California wants fuel-price transparency
Self-service gasoline
Photograph: Shutterstock

Inflation at the pump on the West Coast is prompting state lawmakers in Oregon and California to take action in two different ways.

In Oregon, one of two states prohibiting self-service gasoline sales, the state House of Representatives Monday passed by a 47-10 vote House bill 2426, allowing fuel stations to offer self-service pumps.

The bill, which now goes to the state Senate, gained bipartisan support in part due to a labor shortage that’s making it difficult for fueling stations to find the help they need at wages they can afford to properly staff their locations. Instead of boosting pay for gas-station attendants, which could push up fuel prices in the state, lawmakers are embracing the legislation that would allow for half of a station’s pumps to be self-service, according to a state document. Over time, the legislation should help to keep a lid on fuel price increases.

Meanwhile, in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has accused the major oil companies of price gouging, wants to hold the companies accountable to the public by forming a watchdog group within the California Energy Commission to monitor the petroleum market daily, look for patterns of price manipulation or misconduct by refiners and refer suspected violations to the state attorney general. The commission also could authorize a penalty for price gouging.

According to California documents, gasoline prices in the state hit $6.42 per gallon last fall, about $2.61 more than the national average price. This contributed to record refiner profits of $63 billion in 90 days, the governor’s office said.

The increase disproportionately affects low- and middle-income families, Newsom said. California has the second-highest gasoline tax in the nation at about 51 cents per gallon (CPG), according to the American Petroleum Institute. This contributes to the price at the pump.

The governor’s proposal, which was unveiled last week when Newsom met with Attorney General Rob Bonta, would require oil companies to provide more information to the commission on how they arrive at their prices.

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