Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bill Would Prohibit Anticompetitive Conduct in Production, Pricing of Petroleum

This posting was written by John W. Arden.

A bill attempting to use antitrust law to “put the beaks” on increasing gasoline prices passed the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday by a 324-to-84 margin.

The “Gas Price Relief for Consumers Act of 2008” (H.R. 6074) would amend the Sherman Act to prohibit any foreign state, instrumentality or agent of a foreign state, or any other person from combining to (1) limit the production or distribution of petroleum products, (2) set or maintain the price of petroleum products, or (3) take any action in restraint of trade for petroleum products when such action has a direct, substantial, and reasonably foreseeable effect on the market, supply, price, or distribution of petroleum products.

The legislation also would eliminate sovereign immunity for foreign states violating the prohibitions, direct the Department of Justice to establish a Petroleum Industry Task Force to develop enforcement policies, and require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study of the effects of mergers on competition in the petroleum markets.

“This legislation will address the loopholes and exemptions that oil companies exploit at the great expense of our citizens,” said U.S. Representative Steve Kagen (D-Wis.), sponsor of the bill. “By passing the Gas Price Relief for Consumers Act, the House agrees that it is time to give U.S. authorities the ability to prosecute anticompetitive conduct committed by international cartels that restricts supply and drive up prices.”

The measure was introduced and referred to the House Judiciary Committee on May 15. In passing the House on May 29, the bill received the support of 103 Republicans, as well as 221 Democrats.

A press release on the bill appears here on Congressman’s Kagen’s website.

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