The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

March 20, 2013

City tracks gas prices

Collects stats for gouging investigation

BY JENNIFER BAILEY
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — With gas prices again in the city running around 20 cents higher than surrounding communities, city officials are tracking data to send to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer told city council members this week officials have had contact with the attorney general’s office again about high gas prices in Danville. The office requires long-term research of no less than three months of data collected.

“We are in the process of compiling that,” Eisenhauer said.

Eisenhauer said the city has tracked local gas prices for about the last 40 days and will continue to track them for the next two months prior to sending the data to Madigan’s office.

City officials have talked to the attorney general’s office periodically during the last few years about how to prove a case of price gouging or price fixing.

Gas prices fluctuate on a daily basis, but the issue came up again recently when the city started seeing a consistent disparity among other cities.

Eisenhauer said city officials had done some tracking before, but stopped because the price spread was not drastic for long periods of time.

Ward 7 Alderman Bill Black, who also has tracked gas prices including for five years for a task force in the General Assembly, said “the bottom line is, it’s a very volatile business.”

“I have no authority to investigate gas prices. No one in Danville can give you answers. They (the local gas stations) are not locally owned,” Black said.

Black said he doesn’t think the city can prove price gouging. He’s not sure whether the city could prove price fixing.

“It’s very hard to prove price fixing,” Black said. “We are often higher. It’s something we’re all concerned about. We will do what we can do.”

Black said one instance of Danville gas stations jumping up their prices was on 9/11 in 2001. He reminded aldermen that at least three gas stations in the city significantly increased their prices in the afternoon.

He also pointed out that Illinois has higher taxes, so it’s hard to compare between states.

Back in May 2011, Eisenhauer appointed Black to serve on a committee to look into the city’s gas prices and see how they relate to other comparable cities. Nothing came of a committee.

Eisenhauer previously said he and other city officials continue to receive e-mails and phone calls from “frustrated” residents about the higher city gas prices.

Many communities around the state have their own local gas tax as Danville does. But those communities aren’t seeing gas prices as high as they are here.