Senator Bernie Sanders on Monday repeated his call for more investigation as to why gasoline prices are higher in Northwestern Vermont, than in other parts of the state.
It is a question a lot of people have been asking, for months, and an issue Sanders began investigating this summer. The Senator began surveying gas prices at stations -- his image was captured on surveillance cameras at Maplefields in Middlebury.
"Prices for gasoline are significantly lower than towns in Chittenden County, Franklin County, Lamoille County -- why is that?" Sanders asked.
Sanders said those three counties are ranked the tenth most lucrative market to sell gasoline in the United states, according a national organization that tracks prices and profits.
"I think the reason we have concluded is pretty simple. You have three distributors up here who control over half of the gas stations in Northwest Vermont and they are keeping prices artificially high in my view -- simply because they can do that," he said.
Sanders said he has written to the three companies requesting a meeting to explain why prices vary. He said they turned him down.
But at least one of those dealers, Skip Vallee of RL Vallee, said he sent the Senator an email on November 30th outlining the offer of a meeting and a number of issues he would like to talk about, including Costco's efforts to sell gas at its Colchester location. He said Sanders said no.
"I don't know what he is afraid of. I proposed a meeting at my office near Costco to show him the wetland that would be consumed and to show him the traffic congestion that would be created," Vallee said.
Sanders' office told us the Senator was only interested in discussing gas prices. One of the questions Vallee had for Sanders was why the Senator inquired about Costco's Act 250 permit. Sanders has in the past said if Costco were allowed to sell gas, prices would come down due to increased competition. In fact, the Senator's office did ask the Environmental Board to expedite the process if possible.
Reporter Judy Simpson: By asking -- that request -- Isn't that getting involved.
Senator Bernie Sanders: No, we are not getting involved in the merits of the case at all, that would be improper.
The Senator has launched a new link on his website that tracks gasoline prices not only in Vermont but nationwide as well.
Sanders said the dealers are not doing anything illegal with their pricing, but he feels such a large price difference around the state is unfair for residents who are seeing a larger percentage of their personal budgets going toward gasoline.
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