Lawmakers want to know why Vermonters pay so much for gas - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Lawmakers want to know why Vermonters pay so much for gas

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

A seating squeeze forced legislators into space normally reserved for the audience, as three House committees took testimony on the odd trends seen in Vermont gas prices.

Rep. Pat Brennan, R-Colchester, said they were there for information, not to investigate.

An investigation by the Federal Trade Commission last year determined that gas prices throughout the state, especially Chittenden County, are higher than markets should dictate. Of 400 markets nationwide, Burlington is one of 15 where retailers suck in an average 30 cents profit on every gallon.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, said competition is at best very limited.

Sanders led a push for the investigation. Testifying by phone Tuesday, he stopped just short of accusing fuel-sellers of collusion.

Bill Sorrell, D-Vt. Attorney General, said he has no proof of an antitrust breach either. He says Maine has successfully implemented reforms preventing owners from controlling multiple links in a supply chain and requiring annual reports from distributors and retailers.

Distributor and retailer Skip Vallee says minimum wage, gas standards, high property taxes, and even state police's reluctance to pursue drive-offs all contribute to higher prices. He says working on those items and continuing to push for competition will help. That is, so long as the competition isn't Costco, which wants to start selling gas next to one of Vallee's Maplefield's stores in Colchester.

Vallee says they would theoretically have lower prices.

Sellers say Burlington rail access is the real monopoly.

It's not clear if the Legislature will act, but outside of a supply side shock, prices aren't likely going anywhere soon.

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