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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 22, 2006

Senate balks at removing gas cap

By Tara Godvin
Associated Press

Ron Menor

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State senators will not accept complete repeal of the wholesale gasoline price cap, the Senate's chief proponent of the cap told House lawmakers yesterday.

House and Senate members met in a conference committee yesterday for the second time to work out their differences over legislation to deal with the Islands' petroleum industry.

"We cannot support a complete repeal of our gas pricing regulation," said Sen. Ron Menor, D-17th (Mililani), who has been the gas cap's strongest advocate in the Legislature.

During their last meeting, House conferees had proposed a complete repeal of the law, which went into effect last Sept. 1. Earlier, the House had supported a temporary repeal with the expectation it would become permanent later.

Menor had agreed to that idea.

But he told House members yesterday that while the Senate still supports suspension of the law that puts weekly caps on the wholesale price of gasoline in the state, the government needs some type of safeguard in case prices get too high in comparison with the rest of the nation.

Since the gas cap, which sets limits only on wholesale prices, Hawai'i consistently has had the highest pump prices in the nation. The average retail price of a gallon of regular gasoline in Hawai'i yesterday was $3.17, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

The Senate remains open to considering what form that safeguard might take, Menor said.

In the Senate conferee's latest draft of the legislation presented to House committee members yesterday, the gas cap would be suspended, but the Public Utilities Commission would continue to calculate a theoretical gas cap each week.

The cap would kick in automatically if wholesalers' prices exceeded the prices calculated by the commission for four consecutive weeks.

Previous Senate drafts had put the threshold at two weeks.

Rep. Hermina Morita, D-14th (Hanalei-Kapa'a), said House members would review the Senate's newest version. The conference committee is to meet again on Monday.

Correction: Before and after the gas cap took effect, Hawai'i has frequently had the highest gasoline prices in the nation.