Federal Agency Continues Inquiry at Congressman’s Request
As a part of his ongoing effort to get to the bottom of Western New York’s unexplainably high gas prices, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) spoke directly with a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) energy policy specialist and an FTC economist who have been leading an inquiry initiated by the Congressman’s October 21st letter.
“In recent weeks, Western New Yorkers have been paying the highest gas prices in the nation and at this point we don’t have an explanation good enough to justify the elevated local cost,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “I have been just as frustrated as the dozens of residents calling my office demanding a bottom line answer on the gas price discrepancy. While I can’t yet provide that answer, I am continuing to question those who can. ”
During the phone call late Thursday afternoon, FTC officials expressed to Congressman Higgins that preliminarily, they believe gas prices in WNY are “out of bounds” to where one would expect them to be. They monitored gas prices in 350 markets and compared them to a benchmark of the price of gas along the Gulf Coast. Based on that analysis, they found WNY prices to be highly unusual
They have also determined that this discrepancy is recent. For example, since 2004 gas prices in Buffalo have been about 4 cents per gallon more expensive than in Albany. However, beginning in October 2008 the discrepancy skyrocketed. Gas in Albany is currently 30 cents cheaper than Buffalo.
Congressman Higgins added, “I appreciate the FTC’s efforts to look into this matter. They are also troubled by Western New York’s inexplicable gas prices and I am reassured that they will take appropriate steps to follow through on my request for a full analysis of the situation.”
The FTC representatives assured Congressman Higgins that they will continue to conduct an inquiry into this matter, and are collaborating with the Energy Information Administration, a division of the federal Department of Energy. Their inquiry will eventually produce a report on what they believe the cause to be of the discrepancy.
If any evidence of price fixing is found, an antitrust investigation and enforcement action can be launched against oil companies, refineries or retailers.