More than 500 elected officials have signed a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom in favor of a bill to establish accountability for price-gouging at California gas pumps. (Misunseo)

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  BY Suzanne Potter

March 27, 2023   

A bill designed to fight price-gouging at the gas pump is expected to pass the California State Assembly today and be signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom soon after.

Senate Bill X1-2 would create a watchdog at the California Energy Commission empowered to set a “reasonable” profit margin for gasoline and assess penalties for price-gouging.

Meghan Sahli-Wells, former mayor of Culver City and California director of the group Elected Officials to Protect America, said oil companies must be held accountable.

“What we’ve seen is behind these price hikes aren’t the external forces that the big oil companies have blamed for the humongous price spikes,” Sahli-Wells asserted. “What we’ve seen are refineries that have doubled their profits.”

The Western States Petroleum Association has slammed the bill, blaming high gas prices on a supply shortage linked to a lack of investment in refining capacity and necessary infrastructure.

Gas prices last summer and fall hit an average of $6.42 per gallon in California, more than $2.50 higher than the national average.

The oil and gas industry is behind a ballot measure to roll back a California law passed last year requiring new drilling permits to include setbacks from homes and schools. Sahli-Wells argued the state needs to cut air pollution from burning fossil fuels, adding she does not like recent mailers blaming higher gas prices on state regulation.

“The industry itself is going hot and heavy on propaganda to scare people into dialing back environmental protection,” Sahli-Wells contended. “It does feel somewhat like an ‘oil war’ is happening in California. But we know that if we are to win, that oil must lose.”

The new watchdog would also have the power to subpoena business records in order to root out price manipulation.