Commonwealth Journal

Local News

July 18, 2013

Soaring local gas prices topic of city-county summit

(Continued)

Somerset —

Wiese has stated that the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office will not investigate because price gouging can only be investigated when a natural disaster occurs. Only then can the attorney general’s office step in, as per state law. The Commonwealth Journal has received similar responses from the attorney general’s office in the past. 
Wiese has suggested that citizens take the situation into their own hands and appeal to lawmakers themselves. Wiese has also said that the city can’t file a lawsuit on behalf of Somerset and Pulaski County residents. She said that would have to be done by the citizens themselves.
“We as a city don’t have the standing to sue on behalf of the people out there,” Wiese said during the February meeting. “ ... so we’re kind of stuck.”
But a recent op-ed piece from Attorney General Jack Conway himself points to one possible reason for the huge disparity in state gas prices. The piece, which appeared in the Louisville Courier-Journal early this month, points to the distribution network in northern Kentucky as one possible culprit.
“Our experts uncovered strong data to suggest that Marathon’s acquisition of Ashland Oil in the late 1990s negatively impacted competition in the wholesale gasoline market in Kentucky,” Conway stated in the op-ed. “In other words, our investigation indicated Marathon has a regional monopoly that allows it to manipulate gas prices at the wholesale level. Even after approving the merger in the 1990s, the Federal Trade Commission warned that of the nine states involved in the merger, one state bears watching — that was Kentucky.”
Conway also noted in the piece that Marathon is the dominant gas supplier to retailers across Kentucky. 
Conway called on federal regulators to take action in what he calls a antitrust issue — and he stated in the piece that he had asked federal regulators to take action in 2008, when his office’s investigation into the gas prices was carried out. 

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