McCain: Federal price-gouging laws too lax

| 10/23/2003

Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, held a public meeting recently to look into pipeline ruptures that in July cut off fuel supplies to Phoenix.

The break shut one of the two gasoline pipelines into the Phoenix valley for 17 days, prompting fuel shortages and spiking gas prices as high as $4 per gallon.

The Arizona Republic said McCain expressed amazement at the limits of federal price-gouging laws, and pushed for more consumer protection and greater disclosure to help solve the state's fuel-supply and pipeline-safety problems.

Witnesses included Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Terry Goddard, Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Marc Spitzer and Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup.

They criticized federal regulators for lax oversight and poor communication and alleged the pipeline's operator – Houston-based Kinder Morgan Energy Partners – had not been responsive enough to regulatory actions.

McCain also expressed concern about federal oversight of pipeline safety rules, and about the state's reliance on two pipelines owned by a single company for most fuel sold in Arizona.

Representatives of the Office of Pipeline Safety and Kinder Morgan defended their actions. OPS is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Research and Special Programs Administration.

Since the rupture, The Republic has reported a history of pipeline corrosion problems and safety concerns, and raised questions about the oversight provided by OPS, which oversees nearly 2.2 million miles of interstate pipelines throughout the country.