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Posted on  

September 13, 2001

Officials denounce incidents of gas price hikes By John Patterson Daily Herald State Government

There is no reason to hoard gasoline, Illinois state and federal officials said Wednesday, while at the same time denouncing rising prices in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist attacks.

Shortly after the attacks occurred in Washington and New York City, some gas stations hiked prices, and throughout the state motorists lined up to fill tanks out of fear gas supplies would run short.

In Elgin, police were summoned to a Mobil station Tuesday in response to people fighting over who would get to use a gas pump first. No arrests were made, but police said the incident echoed what happened at other gas stations throughout the region.

But petroleum industry leaders reassured the public Wednesday that there is no shortage. Gov. George Ryan said there is no reason for higher prices or long lines at the pumps.

A day earlier, Ryan blasted state petroleum marketers after hearing of gas prices in downstate areas rising to more than $5 a gallon. He called industry leaders and warned them to roll back prices.

During a Chicago news conference, Ryan said "cooler heads have prevailed" and that prices were dropping. To make sure, he has asked state police and other state workers on the roads to monitor gas prices and report any sudden increases.

"I'm not going to tolerate the looting of consumers by gasoline companies during the hours of emergency in this country," Ryan said.

Moments later, Attorney General Jim Ryan announced that his office had filed suit against Iowa-based Casey's General Store Inc. for alleged violations of consumer protection laws. Ryan claims that at 13 downstate store locations prices for 87 octane gasoline went from $1.68 a gallon Monday to as high as $5 a gallon after Tuesday's attacks.

"It is unconscionable that anyone would try to use one of the darkest days in American history to take advantage of consumers," Jim Ryan told reporters at a Chicago news conference. "I will not tolerate this anywhere in Illinois."

A company official did not return a call, but the Casey's Web site posted a message saying action had been taken as soon as the company learned of the situation.

The lawsuits filed against the company seek restitution to consumers and fines of at least $50,000. The attorney general also set up a hotline for those who believe they've been price-gouging victims. The number for the Chicago area is (800) 386-5438. Jim Ryan encouraged motorists to keep receipts to help potential cases.

Gov. Ryan also activated a hotline for consumers: (800) 247-5010.

Neither the governor nor the attorney general was aware of any similar price hikes in the Chicago area. But some area motorists said they felt like they'd been taken advantage of.

"The prices went up as soon as it (the attacks) started," said Andrew James of Glen Ellyn. He said he picked the Road Pilot service station at 931 Roosevelt Road in Lombard because it had relatively low-cost gas.

"All of them seem to be price-gouging. It's absolutely disgraceful. It's taking advantage of the situation. It's un-American," James said.

In Lake County, motorists were still complaining.

"I think it's pretty obvious that (gas companies) are price-gouging," said Mundelein resident Sam Bavido. "The minute there is one little problem in the Middle East, oil and gas prices shoot up."

Several gas stations in Fox Lake reported being out of the cheaper, lower-grade gasoline but expected shipments soon.

In Hanover Park and Bartlett, prices remained unchanged. Low-grade gasoline prices were around $1.85 a gallon, ranging to slightly more than $2 a gallon for premium grades.

Gas stations in Geneva, Batavia, and Lily Lake all reported that prices were unchanged from Tuesday. The per-gallon cost of regular unleaded averaged around $1.85 cents in the area.


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