2008 LEGISLATURE SESSION
Bills seeking more gas-pricing data shelved
The measures stall as average prices for regular unleaded gas hit record highs
Legislation aimed at making public more information about how gasoline prices are set in Hawaii appears dead this session, after lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on a proposal.
Meanwhile, prices at the pump continued to set record highs.
The average for regular, self-serve unleaded on Oahu was a record $3.679 a gallon yesterday. The statewide average was $3.763 a gallon, down about 2 cents from the record high set a day earlier, according to AAA's Fuel Gauge Report.
Previous records that were set in September 2005 -- $3.684 statewide and $3.594 on Oahu -- were topped earlier this month and have crept upward ever since.
Maui motorists were paying the highest in the state, $4.096 a gallon on average -- down about 5 cents from the day before, and 6 cents from the record $4.161 set Tuesday.
Hawaii's statewide average was the second highest in the country, behind California at $3.876 a gallon.
Lawmakers here continue to wrestle with ways to help consumers at the gas pumps.
Since suspending the attempt to regulate the wholesale cost of gas in 2005, lawmakers have tried each year to bring about more "transparency" in gas pricing.
Two proposals -- House Bill 2811 and Senate Bill 2630 -- would have tweaked the Petroleum Industry Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting program, adopted last year, to require oil companies to report more data on prices and their overall fuel costs.
They also would have given the Public Utilities Commission authority to make more data public in an effort to let consumers see how gas prices are set.
The Senate measure stalled in the House earlier this session. While the House bill passed both chambers, it was never heard in conference committee, where lawmakers work out differences in each version of the bill.
Sen. Ron Menor, the main backer of the transparency legislation, said House conferees refused to meet.
"I think that their inaction regarding this important measure would be a blow to consumers," said Menor (D, Mililani).
Rep. Bob Herkes, the House consumer protection chairman, said the bill would accomplish little.
"We don't control oil (prices)," said Herkes (D, Volcano-Kainaliu). "It's an international problem. I think it's a feel-good bill that isn't going to do anything for us."
Oil companies have argued they already provide data on pricing practices to the PUC, and they remain concerned about the possibility of proprietary, competitive information becoming public.
Menor said lawmakers should be more concerned about the effect of high prices on consumers.
"I think the public's right to obtain more detailed, wholesale pricing information outweighs whatever concerns oil companies may have to prevent the disclosure of that kind of relevant pricing information," Menor said.