By Andrew Sheeler, THE SACRAMENTO BEE
Good morning and welcome to the A.M. Alert!
NEWSOM, DEMOCRATIC LEGISLATIVE LEADERS UNVEIL PLAN TO CREATE GAS PRICE WATCHDOG
The California Energy Commission would be empowered to levy price-gouging penalties on oil and gas companies “making excessive profits,” under the revised language of SBX1-2 released Monday.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, announced that they had reached agreement on legislation aimed at holding Big Oil accountable.
“Today’s agreement represents a major milestone in our efforts to drive the oil industry out of the shadows and ensure they play by the rules. This represents some of the strongest and most effective transparency and oversight measures in the country, and the penalty would root out price gouging,” Newsom said.
SBX1-2 would create a watchdog within the California Energy Commission tasked with keeping tabs on the state’s gas market on a daily basis. According to Newsom’s office, the division would have subpoena power to compel refiners to produce data and records that could show patterns of misconduct, as well as authority to refer violations of the law to the California Attorney General’s Office for prosecution.
As for that price-gouging penalty, the commission would be charged with creating a fine structure “that deters excessive pricing by imposing a civil penalty on refiners who charge more than a maximum allowable margin for the price of gasoline,” according to Newsom’s office.
With Atkins and Rendon on board, the proposal is likely to pass the Legislature.
Also praising the deal on Monday was Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog.
“This will make California the first state in the nation to have the power to impose a price gouging penalty on refiners and to demand this level of transparency from them,” Court said in a statement.
Legislative Republicans were not impressed.
“Translation: After months of fruitless arm-twisting, #CALEG and @CAgovernor punt to unelected state bureaucrats to impose a new California #GasTax,” wrote conservative commentator George Andrews in a tweet.
Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, wrote in a tweet that Newsom “can have all the studies, investigations & watchdogs he wants.
“The hard truth is that it’s the taxes, regulations & fees passed by the Democrat majority that are responsible for CA’s crazy high gas prices. Period. End of story,” Gallagher wrote.