May 02 2007

Senator Feinstein Cosponsors Bipartisan Measure to Ban Price Gouging at the Gas Pump

- Legislation would improve transparency, protect consumers against market manipulation and unfair price spikes -

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today joined with Senators Maria Cantwell and Gordon Smith to cosponsor a bipartisan measure that would ban price gouging at the gas pump.

“Today’s record gas prices are creating hardship for millions of Americans. Drivers are paying upwards of $50 per tank at the pump in many parts of the country. In my home State of California, gas prices spiked to $3.99 yesterday. Yet energy companies continue to reap record profits,” Senator Feinstein said. “The legislation we have introduced today would provide federal consumer protections against gas and oil price gouging. It would shine light on energy companies, and empower federal regulators to probe any potential pricing abuses. Drivers should expect to pay affordable prices at the pump, particularly in the event of a natural disaster.”

The anti gas price gouging legislation introduced Wednesday would empower federal regulators to ensure greater market transparency and go after companies that manipulate oil and gas prices. It would also outlaw gas price gouging at all levels, and give the president the authority to declare national energy emergencies during which proven price gougers would be subject to new fines and criminal penalties. Currently, 28 states have similar laws, but a federal ban is needed to truly prevent harmful market manipulation.  The legislation would not preempt these state laws.

Under the legislation, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)—an independent regulatory agency—could conduct investigations and fine companies for price gouging.  The specific definition of price gouging would be determined through FTC rulemaking.  At present, there are no federal laws on the books that address price gouging for oil and gas. 

This legislation was first introduced in 2005.  In November of that year, the bill garnered 57 votes as an amendment to the Tax Reconciliation bill—including the votes of 13 Republicans—but it required 60 votes for passage at the time.  It was cosponsored by one-third of the Senate, and endorsed by eight governors and nine attorneys general. 

The legislation introduced today is also cosponsored by Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), John Rockefeller (D-VW), Patty Murray (D-WA), Joe Biden (D-DE), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Jack Reed (D-RI).


 
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