San­ders Tes­ti­fies on High Ver­mont Gas Prices

Stanstead Journal - - FORUM - Washington

Sen. Bernie San­ders (I-Vt.) tes­ti­fied yes­ter­day be­fore three com­mit­tees of the Ver­mont House look­ing into why gaso­line prices are con­sis­tently higher in Ver­mont than the rest of the coun­try. San­ders said gaso­line prices in Ver­mont are sig­nif­i­cantly greater than the na­tional av­er­age and prices in north­west­ern Ver­mont usu­ally are 20 cents to 30 cents more per gal­lon than else­where in the state.

Call­ing from Washington, where the U.S. Se­nate was in ses­sion, San­ders spoke to a joint hear­ing by the Ver­mont House trans­porta­tion, com­merce, and ju­di­ciary com­mit­tees.

In north­west­ern Ver­mont, three gas dis­trib­u­tors con­trol at least 54 per­cent of the fill­ing sta­tions. The four largest fill­ing sta­tion own­ers con­trol at least 118 sta­tions, nearly two-thirds of the gas sta­tions in that part of the state. As a re­sult, San­ders said, com­pe­ti­tion is lim­ited and prices fre­quently are about 25 cents a gal­lon more in north­west­ern Ver­mont than sta­tions just 40 miles away in Mid­dle­bury, Vt.

The ex­tra $5 a fill-up that mo­torists are charged in north­west­ern Ver­mont adds up to hun­dreds of dol­lars more a year. “Gas sta­tion own­ers have a right to make a profit, but they don’t have a right to rip peo­ple off,” San­ders said.

At San­ders’ re­quest, the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion de­ter­mined that gas prices in the greater Burling­ton area this past sum­mer were as much as 43 cents more per gal­lon than they should have been. Re­cently, the con­sumer web­page re­ported that Ver­mont had the sixth high­est av­er­age price of gaso­line in the coun­try.

Dur­ing a U.S. Se­nate hear­ing that San­ders chaired last sum­mer in Burling­ton, Vt., an econ­o­mist from the Oil Price In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice, a lead­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion that tracks fuel mar­kets across the United States, tes­ti­fied that gaso­line prices in that re­gion of the state are higher be­cause of a lack of com­pe­ti­tion. The Burling­ton mar­ket – which in­cludes Chit­ten­den, Grand Isle and Franklin Coun­ties – con­sis­tently is one of the most prof­itable mar­kets in the coun­try.

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