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Bill to Provide Attorney General Lockyer with Bolstered Resources for Investigation of Oil Company Mergers, Gas Price Investigation Advances
(SACRAMENTO) – The Assembly Judiciary Committee today approved Senate-passed legislation that would provide Attorney General Bill Lockyer with resources to bolster the state investigation into oil company mergers and gasoline pricing practices, but the measure still faces major hurdles for enactment.
The Attorney General is looking at the antitrust issues raised by the proposed mergers of British Petroleum and ARCO, and Mobil and Exxon. The Attorney General also is investigating gasoline and diesel fuel pricing practices in the wake of recent price spikes.
Senate Bill 1131, by Senate President Pro Tem John Burton of San Francisco, would provide $2.45 million immediately for the Attorney General's antitrust probe of two oil company mergers and investigation into oil company practices regarding the production, distribution and pricing practices for gasoline and diesel fuel. The bill would support approximately 12 temporary positions, including five attorneys. The bill passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee on a multi-partisan 12-2 vote, and will be heard next in the Appropriations Committee. The measure will require a two-thirds vote for passage on the Assembly floor.
"In California, there are essentially six firms that control 87 percent of the retail market for gasoline," Lockyer said. "That number may be considerably fewer because of the pending mergers. My role in evaluating these mergers is to preserve market competition for businesses and consumers. This bill would provide an important one-time boost to allow my office to focus on the complex and detailed issues raised by the pending oil company mergers and gas price investigation without draining resources from other merger reviews."