Hatch: Options are there for lower gas prices

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 19, 2002

There was concern throughout the state following the Sept. 11 attacks about on numerous fronts.

The spike in gasoline prices was one of them.

However, Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch hints that lawmakers may want to introduce legislation to help keep gasoline prices in check, just in case another crisis occurs either in this state or country.

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"The state should have the authority to regulate the prices," said Hatch in a recent interview with the Austin Daily Herald. "Should we have a law? We could. In a time of a state of emergency, to help the state stop price gouging, yes, I think there should be (a law). It would be a good idea."

Hatch said Minnesota is unique in its gasoline supply, in that it gets 50 percent of gas from the Flint Hill refinery near St. Paul. If for some reason the refinery would catch fire or be rendered inoperable, motorists could find themselves in a financial pinch.

"If one of those things has a problem, this whole state has a problem," Hatch said.

One option the state could do to help alleviate concerns would be to build more tank farms, which essentially are large storage containers for the gasoline. One such tank farm, operated by BP Amoco, is located in Spring Valley.

"Having more of these helps," he said. "If I have more tanks around and more gasoline, the prices aren't as likely to be as high. If we want to moderate prices, this is an option. It's good for our economy and it provides stability in the process."

As far as price gouging immediately following Sept. 11, Hatch said his office received 50 complaints. There are 1,950 gas stations throughout Minnesota.

Hatch said motorists complained that prices were increased anywhere from 30 cents to $2.50 more a gallon.

Dan Fields can be reached at 434-2230 or by e-mail at :mailto:dan.fields@austindailyherald.com