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B.C. gas profits staying under wraps

Gas Pump 2226
(via Shutterstock)

An impasse may be developing just days before hearings are set to begin at the British Columbia inquiry examining possible reasons for soaring gas prices in the province.

The B.C. Utilities Commission has been ordered to review the last four years of gas and diesel pricing in the province and wants suppliers to complete a questionnaire about various business aspects including profit margins.

Those suppliers range from Shell and Imperial to Suncor, Husky, Super Save, and 7-11, but documents submitted to the commission show that only 7-11 has responded with details about how it sets the price per litre at the pumps.

It has requested the information not be released publicly and the utilities commission has complied, posting a redacted version of 7-11's questionnaire response to its website.

The other suppliers offered almost identical reasons for withholding profit margin data, with Husky's submission citing "commercially sensitive information" that is "not shared publicly or between refiners."

The inquiry timetable calls for the release of the second phase of the utilities commission consultant report by next Wednesday, followed by up to four days of what is termed an "oral workshop," where panel members can question industry representatives, including gas and diesel suppliers.

When it unveiled the process for the inquiry in May, the utilities commission said it would explore factors potentially affecting prices in B.C. since 2015, including competition and the amount of fuel in storage.

The inquiry is also expected to examine mechanisms that could be used to moderate price fluctuations and increases.

As the price of a litre of regular gasoline climbed above $1.70 in mid-May, Premier John Horgan ordered the probe, saying in a news release that gas and diesel price increases were "alarming, increasingly out of line with the rest of Canada, and people in B.C. deserve answers."

The three-person inquiry panel must submit its final report by Aug. 30.




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