NewsLocal News


State hearing held on high gas prices, proposed price gouging penalty

State hearing held on high gas prices, proposed price gouging penalty
Posted at 4:43 PM, Feb 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-22 20:52:07-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Amid simmering frustration from local drivers over rising gas prices, an informational hearing was held in Sacramento, as part of a special session called by Governor Newsom to look at a price gouging penalty for Big Oil.

These days, City Heights resident Glenda Fielder doesn't spend much time at the gas pump.

“I can't afford a full tank. It’s not in my budget,” said Fielder.

With gas prices back on the rise, Fielder, a home health aide, has to make some tough decisions.

“Don't know whether to buy bread or milk for our family, or put some gas in the car just to get some bread,” said Fielder. “The prices need to come down immediately, so we can thrive and live and take care of our families.”

The topic of gas prices was front and center at a Wednesday hearing in Sacramento, after Governor Newsom called a special session to pass a price gouging penalty for Big Oil.

The penalty would fine oil refiners for charging excessive profits, with any money collected given back to Californians.

Four of the five state oil refiners that have reported quarterly profits saw $72 billion in profits in 2022, nearly triple the previous year.

At the hearing, state energy and other officials laid out the case for a penalty.

“These increases in refinery margins and extraordinary gasoline prices’ impact on California families, when juxtaposed with record global profits, are especially concerning,” testified Siva Gunda, who serves on the California Energy Commission.

State Republicans warn a price gouging penalty could backfire, with Big Oil passing on costs to consumers.

Local State Senator Brian Jones recently introduced a bill aimed instead at reducing fees.

“Suspend the current gasoline taxes and fees, which is about a dollar per gallon,” said Jones.

In a letter, State and Assembly Republicans called on Governor Newsom to delay the transition from winter-blend fuel to summer blend fuel, extend the suspension of the diesel tax, and delay the annual gas tax increase that is scheduled to take effect July 1

All those ideas sound good to Fielder. She's also in favor of reining in the sky-high profits.

“It doesn't sound real, and it doesn't sound fair. They need to spread to the communities that need it and not themselves,” said Fielder.

A state senator from Berkeley has introduced a price gouging penalty, though many details haven't been determined.

The debate over a penalty is expected to last many months.