California Law Against Oil Price Gouging Passes State Senate, Heads to Assembly

On March 23 , 2023 the proposed legislation, SBX 1-2, which will hold Big Oil refineries accountable for price gouging consumers, passed the Senate 30-8. Now it moves to the Assembly.

Oil companies have failed to provide a credible explanation for the divergence between prices in California compared to the national average. Some industry spokespeople have blamed it on five refineries temporarily shutting down at the same time. But this has happened in the past without prices at the pump skyrocketing anywhere near this degree. In September 2019, five refineries experienced unplanned maintenance issues, and California was faced with several refinery outages. The price spike was a mere 34 cents — a fraction of what Californians have been paying.

The external factors Big Oil keeps blaming for these extreme price hikes do not line up with the facts, and they cannot hide the multi-billion dollar profits the industry made while Californians suffered to make ends meet. The dramatic price hikes in California could not be attributed solely to refinery maintenance issues, weather, OPEC, state taxes that remained unchanged or the ludicrous idea that there is a supply shortage in a pumping rich refinery state.

SBX 1-2 includes the creation of a new independent watchdog within the California Energy Commission (CEC) charged with monitoring California’s petroleum market on a daily basis to ensure market participants don’t break the law.

The organization Elected Officials to Protect America, representing over 500 elected officials from 49 counties, strongly supports protecting consumers from oil price gouging with SBX 1-2 (Skinner). EOPA California has a letter specifically for elected officials to sign in support of the bill. In just six days 132 have signed, and the number is rising daily.

“Big Oil raked in $200 billion last year with no regard for how their gas price increases hurt communities that were already suffering from inflation, and the dangerous effects of fossil fuel pollution on our health and climate. That’s why over 130 local elected officials representing 105 jurisdictions across our great state are standing up to put our constituents’ health and wellbeing over polluters’ profits,” said Meghan Sahli-Wells, Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) California Director, Former Culver City Mayor. “People deserve justice from this price gouging which became twice as bad in California with gas prices doubling. Too many people have been forced to cut back on necessities just to fill their tank for their working commute. The unprecedented spike resulted in record refiner profits of $63 billion in just 90 days, disproportionately affecting low and middle-income families, driving inflation higher and making it harder for California families. We congratulate the Senate and urge action in the Assembly to bring justice and security to the people of California with the enactment of SBX 1-2.”

EOPA California is a statewide, non-partisan network of California elected officials committed to protecting our communities, public health, and climate.

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