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Advocate ready for California's first hearing on gas gouging

The State Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee will hold the first hearing during a special session on gas prices. The hearing, "Petroleum Windfall Profits Penalty: Will Californians Get Relief at the Gas Pump?," is scheduled for Wednesday.

"This hearing is about where we draw that line, how much money can they make off Californians," said Jamie Court, the president of Consumer Watchdog. The organization has been waging war against oil corporations.

Court said oil corporations have been at the forefront of overcharging Californians, who now deserve answers and that’s why he is going to testify at that hearing.


"At one point our gas prices were $2.60 more than U.S. gas prices, which is the most it's ever been last time we were at a big gap," he said. "It was a $1.60 difference between U.S. prices and that was in 2015 after the Exxon refinery in Torrance blew up and wasn't open for a year. There was no good reason for this gouging this year."

KPBS reached out to the five major oil companies for comment but did they did not respond. Those companies have been asked to testify at this week’s hearing.

Court said he's not against the oil companies making profits.

"You can make a good living making gasoline the state, you just can't gouge us. So this is an upper limit." he said. "They made too much money off our backs. We need to put something in place to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Court said hearings like these matter because gasoline isn’t a luxury item that people can choose to go without.


"Gasoline is a necessity in California, particularly southern California. People need to get to work. So when it costs another $20 or $25 to fill up, it is a huge difference to people on the lowest end of the spectrum," he said. "That's why the governor proposed the price gouging penalty, because he knows not only does it hurt those people who are our lowest income and in need, it also hurts the whole economy."

Court says there should be a cap on the amount of profits oil companies are allowed to make and Californians are owed billions in refunds.

Though gas prices have risen lately, they have fallen since they hit their peak in San Diego County last October, when it cost $6.44 for a gallon of regular unleaded.

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