HoustonChronicle.com: Federal Trade Commission finds no collusion among oil companies
Reuters News Service
April 7, 2004, 2:17PM
WASHINGTON -- U.S. regulators looking into the soaring price of gasoline have found no evidence of collusion among oil companies in running up pump costs, a top official said today.
"To date, we have identified no instances of collusion between petroleum companies," said William Kovacic, general counsel of the Federal Trade Commission, in written testimony to the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee.
"That does not mean that collusion cannot occur, which is why the agency continues to be vigilant in pursuing its enforcement mission," Kovacic added.
The Senate panel held a hearing on rising gasoline prices, which the Energy Department said hit a record high this week of $1.78 a gallon.
Kovacic said the FTC is monitoring wholesale and retail gasoline costs in cities throughout the United States looking for "pricing anomalies."
In a related matter, the FTC said it is evaluating Royal Dutch/Shell Group's decision to shut down an oil refinery in California, but has not implemented an official investigation.
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon had asked the agency in February to look into the matter after raising concerns that closing the Bakersfield, California, refinery would hurt competition and boost the price of gasoline on the West Coast.
The West Coast has the highest gasoline costs in the United States, with pump prices throughout California above $2 a gallon for several months.
"The issues that you have raised are very important to this agency and will be seriously considered as the agency evaluates the situation with respect to the Bakersfield refinery and determines what course of action, if any, may be warranted," FTC Chairman Timothy Muris said in a letter Tuesday to Wyden.
"The agency staff are fully considering the concerns you raise," Muris added.
Shell has said it will close the refinery on Oct. 1, saying the facility is no longer financially viable because local sources of crude oil are declining.