URGING THE CONTINUED INVESTIGATION OF HIGH GAS PRICES -- (Extensions of Remarks - October 10, 2003)
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--- SPEECH OF
HON. STEVEN R. ROTHMAN
OF NEW JERSEY
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2003
Mr. ROTHMAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to call attention to an issue of serious concern to my constituents in northern New Jersey, as well as to consumers and local governments throughout the Northeast: rising gas prices. Following the historic Northeast blackout, gas prices increased twelve cents on average during the last week of August, raising the national average to $1.75 per gallon--an all-time high. In some places the spike was more severe--in New Jersey, for example, gas prices at the pump rose by more than 30 cents per gallon.
Local governments are particularly negatively affected by unforeseen spikes in gas prices. Municipalities budget more than a year in advance for gas purchases for police cars, public works trucks and for heating oil for municipal buildings. Similarly, consumers and families have to budget for gasoline purchases every week, and for the upcoming home heating, based on increasingly high prices.
Mr. Speaker, it is time that policymakers at all levels of government take action to combat price spikes induced by firms that manipulate market fluctuations to gouge consumers and governments. I am pleased to report that the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders acted quickly to do just that, passing a resolution sponsored by two members who are also local mayors, Mayor David L. Ganz of my hometown of Fair Lawn, and Mayor Jim Carroll of Demerest.
On September 17, 2003, Bergen County Freeholders voted unanimously to ask the New Jersey state legislature to investigate oil companies that deliberately gouge the public with high gasoline prices at the pump. The Board also called on President Bush to consider releasing oil from the 22 billion barrel strategic petroleum reserve to give consumers immediate relief. Mayors Ganz and Carroll cited high gas prices that were playing havoc with municipal budgets, especially for law and public safety departments of the county and their own municipalities.
Mr. Speaker, I commend the Bergen County Freeholders, particularly Mayors Ganz and Carroll, for taking swift action on behalf of their constituents and New Jersey consumers. I wish to add my voice to their efforts by urging Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to expeditiously conclude the ongoing joint Energy Information Administration-Federal Trade Commission investigation of the record August gas price spike. If firms are indeed found to have manipulated market conditions to gouge consumers and local governments, I call on the Department of Justice and the Bush Administration to prosecute all wrongdoing to the fullest extent of the law.
Mr. Speaker, urge that every Member of Congress pay attention to the severe problem of gas price spikes now so that our communities do not face this problem in the future.