Local gas prices drop amidst inquiry
Susanville Mayor Kurt Bonham wrote a Where I Stand to the paper a couple months back explaining how he had directed city staff to look into the abnormal gas prices. He later said his staff had not received any word back from the three gas wholesalers staff had tried to contact.
More recently, County Administrative Officer John Ketelsen wrote a letter to the Public Inquiry Unit of the California Attorney General’s Office. Under the guidance of the county board, Ketelsen’s letter was very specific about the price of gas in the area.
“Residents of Susanville appear to be the victim of higher gasoline prices than are charged elsewhere in the surrounding areas,” the letter states. “There are about eight gas stations in and around Susanville. Each of them has, over the last year, consistently charged prices which are within two cents of one another.”
Ketelsen goes on in the letter to explain that some have argued that it’s the remote location which adds to the costs, which must in turn be passed on to Lassen residents.
“However, Chester is just as remote and Alturas, in Modoc County, is more remote,” Ketelsen said. “And yet prices there are consistently lower than in Susanville. Regardless of the direction one travels from Susanville, the prices range from twenty to sixty cents lower outside the area.”
Ketelsen said the letter was sent to the attorney general’s office on Thursday, Oct. 23. As of Thursday, Oct. 30, attorney general’s representatives said the Public Inquiry Unit has not processed the letter.
District 2 Supervisor Jim Chapman said in the years he’s talked with local gas station owners, the prices are usually decided by the distributors.
“Their prices are regulated based upon what is sold to them by the distributor, or the person who halls it up from the Chico pipeline,” Chapman said. “That dictates more for what they (station owners) do to set the price rather than the owners getting together and setting it themselves. If there’s something out of whack, then maybe it’s either at the distributor or pipeline level. That’s just my feeling.”
Chapman said he wasn’t in a position to verify data, but he said based on the information and stories he’s heard, he’s just as confused yet concerned as anyone. He said he didn’t think it was any of the local gas retailers, as they don’t collect much profit from gas sales in general. He said the price issue must therefore lie between when the gas is taken out of the pipeline and when it is delivered to the local gas stations.
Chapman said during the Oct. 28 supervisors meeting that according to a report he’d heard, the national average for gas at the time was $2.66 per gallon. He said he found it funny that in the same report, San Francisco was listed as having the highest gas prices which he said at the time was still 15 cents lower than in Susanville.
“I guess that means we’re not part of America,” Chapman said.
While Susanville and most of Lassen County has historically had higher gas prices than other parts of California because of its location, it has become more of an issue when areas like Greenville and Quincy have reported having gas prices as much as 60 cents cheaper. City Attorney Peter Talia said there has been speculation from numerous people, but so far he has heard nothing concrete.
“We’ve talked about it,” Talia said. But we can only do so much.”
Talia said the recent quick drop in prices around the county was not a direct result of city inquiry.
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