Lawmakers Urge Speaker Hastert to Investigate Skyrocketing Gas Prices, Possible Price-Gouging
-Oil company profits increase as gas remains over $3.00 per gallon -
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Eighty-eight Members of Congress led by U.S. Representatives Rosa L. DeLauro (Conn.-3), Bart Stupak (MI-1) and Stephanie Herseth (SD-At Large) today urged House Speaker Dennis Hastert to investigate skyrocketing gas prices and possible price-gouging. The lawmakers made their request in a letter to Hastert the same day as Exxon-Mobil reported that it earned $8.4 billion in the first quarter of 2006, an increase of 7% - the fifth highest quarterly profit for any public company in history. Yesterday, Conoco Phillips reported first quarter earnings of $3.29 billion, an increase of 13%.
"This is not a new problem - House Democrats have been saying since September that the oil companies are out of control," said DeLauro. "After a year of record-breaking profits, these oil executives must be called to account. The Senate has already called on oil executives to testify, but still no action has been taken in the U.S. House. What will it take for House Republicans to finally ask the hard questions of their political cronies."
"Currently, the federal government has limited authority to prosecute price gouging," Stupak said. "Congress has never accurately defined price gouging and has not given Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice the tools necessary to properly prosecute price gouging. My bill, H.R. 3936, would empower the FTC and DOJ to crack down on gouging."
Herseth said, "We have heard strong words this week about rising gas prices, but words are not enough. Families across America are struggling to fill their gas tanks. They deserve answers and concrete actions, not just lip service. Congressional hearings are needed to investigate possible price gouging and provide relief to families nationwide as we head into the summer travel season, when prices traditionally peak."
Following is text of the letter:
April 27, 2006
Speaker Dennis Hastert
235 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Speaker Hastert:
We are writing to urge you to hold congressional hearings to investigate possible gasoline price gouging and to also consider legislation that would hold accountable those who engage in the practice. With gasoline prices across the country rising to record levels as oil industry profits soar, we believe Congress has an obligation to determine the underlying causes behind these skyrocketing prices.
On Tuesday, April 18, 2006, President Bush expressed his concerns about high gas prices and said, "The government has the responsibility to make sure that we watch very carefully and investigate possible price-gouging, and we will do just that". While we welcome the president's support, it is the responsibility of Congress in its oversight powers to ensure that consumers are not being charged unfairly at the pump.
Just this week, the price for oil increased to over $70 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, above the previous closing record set in August after Hurricane Katrina. With gas prices approaching or exceeding $3 nationwide, consumers have the right to know if they are paying a fair price for gas.
The need for meaningful action in this area is long overdue. Eighty members of the House wrote to President Bush on September 9, 2005, requesting that he meet with oil company executives to learn why prices are so high and what their companies are doing to ensure prices are fair to consumers. On October 27, 2005, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist ordered the Senate Energy and Commerce Committees to launch an investigation into high energy prices, to determine their cause and investigate possible price gouging. On November 8, 2005, 113 House members wrote to you requesting that you call oil company executives to testify before Congress and explain the relationship between their record profits and the skyrocketing oil and gas prices Americans have been paying for gas. As of yet, the House of Representatives has not taken any meaningful action to look into this matter.
We also urge you to bring to the floor H.R. 3936, the Federal Response to Energy Emergencies Act of 2005, introduced by Congressman Stupak and Congresswoman Herseth. This bill would give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to investigate and prosecute those that engage in predatory pricing from oil companies to local gas stations, with an emphasis on those who profit most. This includes oil, gasoline, natural gas, and all petroleum distillates.
Congress has an obligation to take action on behalf of consumers. President Bush has said that he will support the investigation of price gouging, and it is the responsibility of Congress to complete it. Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to hearing from you.
Stephanie Tubbs Jones
Chris Van Hollen
Earl Pomeroy Eddie