Law Department finds no wrongdoing in Ketchikan gas increases

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2002

KETCHIKAN (AP) -- The state attorney general's office has found no wrongdoing by Ketchikan gasoline sellers in the wake of prices that climbed sharply after the terrorist attacks Sept. 11.

Prices for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline rose as high as $2.29 following the East Coast terror attacks. Complaints to the state prompted an investigation, but after a three-month inquiry, the Department of Law found no laws broken.

''It looks like there was really sort of an uncanny coincidence,'' said Ed Sniffen, assistant attorney general, of the September price spike. ''All the stations were very cooperative. ... There was no problem with them at all.''

Local distributors cited a 46-cent jump in Seattle-area wholesale prices the week before Sept. 11 as the cause of the increase. The state's investigation verified the price increase.

''We haven't received any complaints recently,'' Sniffen said. ''We haven't received any information that would prompt us to do more than we've already done.''

The department has been investigating statewide gas prices since 1999 and continues to review information from Alaska gas sellers.

A Dec. 21 report from the law department said market characteristics, by themselves, do not explain why the price difference between Alaska and the West Coast grew sharply between 1995 and 1998.

According to the report, Anchorage prices between 1995 and 1998 were on average 17 cents more per gallon than Seattle-area prices. The report said that was curious given that Alaska refiners produced more gasoline during that period than was consumed here. In 1999, after the investigation began, the spread narrowed dramatically, according to the report.

In 1999 and 2000 Anchorage paid on average only 3 cents more per gallon than Seattle. Gas prices in Ketchikan on Wednesday ranged from $1.61 to $1.72 per gallon for regular unleaded.

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