tish james

Letitia James Is Going After Gas-Price Gougers

Photo: Seth Wenig/AP/Shutterstock

New York attorney general Letitia James’s office recently opened up an investigation into price gouging in the broader oil and gas industry in New York State.

James’s probe is being conducted by the attorney general’s division of economic justice, and is examining the pricing and practices of state refineries, pipelines, distributors, and gas stations that sell gas and diesel, according to a person directly familiar with the investigation, which is in its early stages. James has recently sought more leeway to go after large corporations taking advantage of the pandemic to boost prices.

“Soaring gas prices are forcing working New Yorkers and low-income families to make difficult decisions on whether to pay bills or put food on the table,” James said in a statement to New York. “Price gouging is unfair and illegal and my office is determined to make sure it doesn’t happen in our state.”

Across the country, gas prices have risen dramatically since last year, amid a broader inflation surge. Supply-chain issues and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — and the resulting U.S. sanctions on the country — have lessened the available supply here. According to AAA, New York is the 12th-most expensive state for gas, with prices hovering around $4.20 a gallon — well below the high of states like California, where the average price is above $5.70, but still above the national average of $4.08. Broader remedies to make gas more affordable, like the White House extending the use of dirtier-burning ethanol blends, won’t have an impact until this summer. New York governor Kathy Hochul’s first budget also includes a six-month gas-tax holiday, but that doesn’t kick in until June.

Large corporations have been crowing to investors that they’ve been raking in the cash at fatter profit margins — including ExxonMobil, which is expected to announce nearly $10 billion in new quarterly earnings when it announces its earnings on April 29. No specific company is currently a target of James’s investigation, the person said.

The New York attorney general’s office has tussled with Exxon before. The state lost a case in 2019 that claimed the oil giant had kept two sets of books on climate change and was misleading investors about its risks to the environment. That case was filed by James’s predecessor, Barbara Underwood, and had been in the works under her predecessor, Eric Schneiderman.

Letitia James Is Going After Gas-Price Gougers