San­ders De­tails

New Ef­fort to Make Ver­mont Gas Prices More Com­pet­i­tive

Stanstead Journal - - NEWS - Burling­ton, VT

U.S. Sen. Bernie San­ders (I-Vt.) to­day an­nounced a new web­site to help con­sumers track gaso­line prices in Ver­mont, where prices in the north­west­ern part of the state are 30 cents above the na­tional av­er­age.

San­ders also said he plans to work with Ver­mont state law­mak­ers to hold hear­ings and draft state leg­is­la­tion on gas prices.

Some fuel deal­ers in Ver­mont, San­ders said, “are keep­ing gas prices ar­ti­fi­cially high sim­ply be­cause they can.”

In ad­di­tion to high­light­ing the best gaso­line pump prices in Ver­mont, San­ders’ web­site, “Con­sumer Watch: An Eye on Gas Prices,” ex­plains how prices are set by track­ing whole­sale gas prices, profit mar­gins, taxes and trans­porta­tion costs for fuel haulers.

Gas prices in north­west­ern Ver­mont are sig­nif­i­cantly more ex­pen­sive than in the rest of the state and coun­try. For seven con­sec­u­tive weeks from mid-Septem­ber through Oc­to­ber, north­west­ern Ver­mont was one of the 10 most lu­cra­tive mar­kets to sell gas in the 13-state north­east­ern re­gion of the

United States ac­cord­ing to the Oil Price In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice, one of the lead­ing na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions that track fuel prices.

So far this year, the re­gion com­pris­ing Chit­ten­den, Grand Isle and Franklin coun­ties ranked as the 10th most prof­itable mar­ket in the United States to sell gas. “We are in the midst of a ter­ri­ble re­ces­sion and many work­ing fam­i­lies who drive long dis­tances to and from work are hurt­ing. Gas sta­tion own­ers have a right to make a profit, but they don’t have a right to rip peo­ple off,” San­ders said.

The av­er­age price for a gal­lon of reg­u­lar un­leaded gas in north­west­ern Ver­mont on Mon­day was $3.65 – 31 cents more a gal­lon than the na­tional av­er­age, ac­cord­ing to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. Statewide, the av­er­age price this morn­ing was $3.60 a gal­lon, or 26 cents a gal­lon more than the U.S. av­er­age.

San­ders, who serves as a mem­ber of the Se­nate en­ergy com­mit­tee, held a Se­nate field hear­ing in Burling­ton, Vt., last Au­gust to con­tinue his in­ves­ti­ga­tion into why prices are so much higher through­out north­west­ern Ver­mont. The cen­tral find­ing: the con­cen­tra­tion of own­er­ship of fill­ing sta­tions in that re­gion re­sults in lim­ited com­pe­ti­tion and pre­vents prices at the pump from fall­ing as whole­sale gas prices de­cline.

One of the rea­sons for the lack of com- pe­ti­tion may be di­rectly re­lated to the fact that the three largest gaso­line dis­trib­u­tors in north­west­ern Ver­mont (S.B. Collins, Cham­plain Oil, and R.L. Vallee) own more than half of the fill­ing sta­tions in the re­gion. San­ders in­vited the head of each com­pany to speak with him about why they are charg­ing up­wards of 30 cents a gal­lon more than in other parts of Ver­mont. He has called on them to be more com­pet­i­tive.

“No one is dis­put­ing that gaso­line dis­trib­u­tors have a right to make a profit,” San­ders said. “In my view, how­ever, they should not be rip­ping peo­ple off in th­ese tough eco­nomic times.”

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