(September 2, 2005) -- CA Attorney General Bill Lockyer today (Sept. 2) announced the start of an investigation into what his office called "possible illegal profiteering by gasoline retailers and oil companies in the wake of Hurricane Katrina."
In a written release, his office said it will "subpoena records from refiners and probe the pricing practices of gas station owners."
"Hurricane Katrina has broken families, devastated communities and destroyed lives," said Lockyer in the release. "Itís during times such as this that itís most important we pull together, act with one heart, and rebuild with a sense of community. To unjustly profit from tragedy is unconscionable. I hope this investigation does not find that such greed has afflicted oil companies and gas station operators in California."
Attorney General Lockyerís office said its investigation "will examine whether oil companies or retailers have colluded to violate antitrust laws, run afoul of state laws that prohibit unfair business practices, or violated state law that prohibits retailers from unduly increasing gasoline prices more than 10 percent during government-declared emergencies. Violations of the price-gouging statute are subject to civil enforcement actions or misdemeanor criminal prosecutions."
In his release, Attorney General Lockyer said CA receives little or no refined gasoline from the Gulf region, and no crude oil...and he questioned whether disruptions in the oil and gasoline infrastructure caused by Hurricane Katrina, while no doubt severe, could legitimately explain any significant effect on CA's market.
"Certainly, the storm cannot be used to justify gouging Californians while thousands of our fellow Americans suffer," said Lockyer in his release.
The Attorney General also announced creation of an email address where consumers, oil company employees, gas station workers and others "can submit information and/or documents about gouging and suspected unlawful conduct": email@example.com.