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Bishop Bill Would Punish Oil Price Gougers, Fight Price Spikes At Pump

Originally Posted: March 11, 2011

Southampton - As prices at the pump spiral upward, Congressman Tim Bishop took aim at price gouging with a new bill that would authorize up to $500 million in criminal penalties for selling oil, gasoline and diesel at prices that are unconscionably excessive and take unfair advantage of circumstances related to an international crisis.

"I urge my colleagues to join us in standing up to the oil companies and show hard-working Americans that we are in their corner," said Congressman Bishop in speech on the House Floor in support of his legislation. "Now is the time we must act - to prove their interests are paramount, not the oil companies'."

In his speech, Bishop noted that the Department of Energy forecasts gas prices could spike to a national average of more than $4 a gallon for regular this summer - about 50 cents higher than Tuesday's national average of about $3.50. In Long Island, regular unleaded has already surged 34 cents in the last month alone and now averages $3.74 a gallon, with prices over $4 a gallon common on the East End.

The legislation, known as the Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act (H.R. 964), would empower the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general to institute civil and criminal penalties for fuel price gouging during periods proclaimed by the President as an international crisis affecting oil markets, and could also apply to speculation in the oil futures market.

FTC will give priority to enforcement actions concerning companies with total U.S. sales of gasoline and other petroleum distillates in excess of $10 billion per year. The civil penalty for engaging in price gouging would be a fine up to $100 million and the criminal penalty for a corporation engaging in price gouging would be up to $500 million.

"It is past time to break the grip of price gougers and speculators on family budgets as we simultaneously ramp up production of all sources of American energy," said Bishop, who noted that domestic oil production rose in 2010 to its highest level since 2003.

Bishop's legislation has already attracted support from across the nation, with Representatives Jerry McNerney (CA), Tim Walz (MN), Mike McIntyre (NC), Bruce Braley (IA), John Yarmuth (KY), and Ben Chandler (KY) signing on as original cosponsors.

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