Pa. Gas Price Gouging Bill Introduced

Pennsylvania House Democrat Ryan Bizzarro of Erie wants to see the state do more to limit how much gas prices can go up — and his solution has nothing to do with gas taxes.

Bizzarro has introduced House Bill 2697 to prevent gas price increases within 24 hours of a previous increase. Bizzarro said in his legislative memorandum that five states have taken similar action.

“Our Stop Price Fixing Act would come down hard on the businesses that collude to artificially send prices skyrocketing to take advantage of emergencies — or just to pad their own pockets. Our plan would give the attorney general the tools needed to get the facts, get the bad guys into a courtroom, and get them convicted,” Bizzarro said in a joint op-ed piece with fellow Democrat House members Sara Innamorato, Nick Pisciotano and Joanna McClinton. The bill faces an uphill climb with Republicans controlling both houses of the state Legislature.

The bill allows the governor to declare a market emergency that would last 30 days and could be extended for additional 30-day periods. The proposal would make it illegal for oil companies or gas retailers to sell or offer to sell a petroleum product or heating fuel product for “an amount that represents an unconscionably excessive price.”

In Wisconsin, Gov. Evers on Tuesday issued an executive order declaring that an abnormal economic disruption exists in Wisconsin due to a disruption of energy supplies, allowing himself to trigger a statewide ban on gasoline and diesel price gouging. Wisconsin law prohibits gas stations from raising prices more than once in 24 hours, but there is no limit as to how much they can raise prices when they do so. There is a “minimum markup law” that prevents retailers from selling gas and other goods below cost in an attempt to attract customers.

In May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would give President Joe Biden authority to declare an energy emergency that would make it unlawful to increase gasoline and home energy fuel prices in an “excessive” or exploitative manner. The bill directs the Federal Trade Commission to punish companies that engage in price gouging and adds a new unit at the FTC to monitor fuel markets.

The measure was approved, 217-207. Republicans unanimously opposed the bill, along with four Democrats. It now goes to the Senate, where a similar bill faces steep odds amid a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans.

Republicans and industry groups called the bill misguided, saying there is no evidence of price gouging. Oil is a global commodity and prices are set on the global market. Republicans say the answer to higher gas prices is to increase production here in the United States.

Gas prices rose late last year amid supply chain problems and increased demand as the economy recovered following the COVID-19 pandemic, but prices have spiked ever higher since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. has banned imports of Russian oil and other countries are seeking alternatives to Russian energy, driving prices up.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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