Feb. 16, 2004 – Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Andrew Rutnik has issued subpoenas to a number of gas stations and oil companies in the St. Croix and St. Thomas-St. John districts which failed to comply voluntarily with requests for pricing information.
Rutnik had warned the companies that he would take legal action if they failed to provide information on gasoline sales on both the wholesale and retail levels. Among the entities subpoenaed are "Texaco, Esso and Domino," he said at the end of last week.
A number of the companies have indicated their willingness to respond now that they have been subpoenaed, he said.
"The drastic action was necessary to complete the gas price study that has been under way," Rutnik said. "We want to finish the study this month."
He said the data obtained will be analyzed in March to assist the department in determining a flexible petroleum tax to be imposed at the wholesale level. The move "is intended to achieve a reduction in prices at the pump in both districts," he said.
Gas pump prices have been increasing in the territory. Rutnik said world oil prices are rising as well, but his concerns continue to center on the local gasoline middleman. "Hovensa went up 10 cents a gallon on the St. Croix market," he said, and the weekly surveys conducted by his department reflect a dramatic increase in fuel costs on St. Thomas, too.
"I am a bit concerned that the price goes up very fast but is slow to come down when Hovensa drops its price to the wholesalers," he said.
Rutnik said such a practice is not fair to consumers and he hopes that prices will be brought down in the territory as they recently have been in Puerto Rico.
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