Rep. Gallego and Gov. Hobbs secure win on keeping Arizona gas prices from spiking

gas prices

U.S. Representative Ruben Gallego and Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs meet with Brig. Gen. Jason Rueschhoff, 56th Fighter Wing commander, and his spouse Melissa Rueschhoff, Jan. 19, 2023, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. Gallego and Hobbs were visiting Luke AFB along with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who was in Arizona to break ground on a new renewable energy project, west of Phoenix. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Noah D. Coger)

By Camaron Stevenson

May 7, 2024

Democratic lawmakers have successfully lobbied for a delay in seasonal changes to Arizona’s gasoline supply, effectively halting the typical increase in gas prices that hits in the summer months.

At Gov. Katie Kobbs’ request—and reinforced by US Senate candidate Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix—the Environmental Protection Agency granted gas retailers permission to continue using winter-blend gasoline, avoiding potential supply-chain issues caused by a pipeline disruption in California last year.

“Arizonans should not be forced to pay unreasonably high gas prices due to a delay in gasoline delivery,” said Gallego. “That’s why I pushed the EPA to do what was right and waive the requirements that would’ve led to skyrocketing prices. If these delays continue, I’ll push for an even longer extension.”

The extension moves the deadline for retailers to fully transition to summer-blend gasoline from May 30 to June 15.

Will it work?

If last summer is any indication, Hobbs and Gallego’s efforts should curb rising gas costs this year. Similar supply chain disruptions occurred in 2023—one in March and one in August. When tanker operators in Midland, Texas, spilled over 400,000 gallons of crude oil on March 29, it sent Arizona’s gas prices skyrocketing. In Phoenix, the cost per gallon spiked from $4.53 on March 27 to a peak of $5.05 on April 24.

Gallego wrote a letter to federal authorities in 2023 as well, urging the Biden administration to find a way to shift the burden of the oil spill away from Arizona consumers.

“Arizona families should not be forced to pay more than a dollar a gallon over the national average for gas,” said Rep. Gallego. “Our state shouldn’t be punished unfairly for the actions of a few major oil companies. We need the Administration to address these issues and lower costs.”

At the time, no action at the federal level was taken, and gas prices hovered around $5.00 until June. Once the supply level returned to normal, so did gas prices: By June 23, the cost per gallon had dipped to $4.20, even dropping under $4.00 by August.

But shortly after prices stabilized, another supply disruption struck—refineries in El Paso experienced mechanical issues for several weeks in mid-August, resulting in another drop in supply.

Hobbs followed Gallego’s letter with one to the EPA on August 31, requesting the department allow retailers an extension on the sale of summer-blend gasoline, which they had in stock, instead of transitioning to fall fuel, which would be in short supply until the end of September.

This request was granted—as was another in September—slowing the rise in gas prices while gas stations sold their remaining supply of summer fuel. While that ran out before the refinery supply was replenished, and prices went up, the extension tempered its impact, and costs never climbed as they did during the previous fuel emergency.

With the most recent extension approved, Hobbs and Gallego hope to see similar results.

“I am glad the EPA has allowed us to take this proactive measure that will help keep costs down at the gas pump as we enter the summer months,” said Hobbs. “This waiver will ensure continuity of gasoline supply throughout the state and help mitigate potential effects that come with transitioning to Arizona’s summer gasoline blend.”

Legislators stumble with similar efforts

While Hobbs and Gallego applauded the EPA extensions as examples of good governance, other lawmakers were not so eager to praise the cost-cutting measure. After the effects of the EPA’s extension in August were made manifest, Republican legislators attacked Hobbs for not doing the same in April, as Gallego had requested.

Legislators criticized Hobbs during a committee meeting on air quality and energy for listening to environmental experts who said the temporary cost savings would not be a comparable trade-off for the long-lasting negative effects a spring extension would have on pollution and air quality.

A bill was then introduced in January 2024 by Republican Sen. Justine Wadsack, R-Tucson, that would increase the supply options for gas retailers. However, it would also restrict the governor’s authority over environmental matters, and undercut current air quality and pollution control regulations.

“While we can’t prevent his implementation of the reckless policies that are hurting hardworking families, senior citizens, and young adults,” Wadsack said of her legislation to remove environmental protections. “I’m hopeful this legislation will be signed into law because it is the right move to make to improve the lives of our citizens.”

The proposal passed quickly through the state Senate, but has stalled in the House.

Author

  • Camaron Stevenson

    Camaron is the Founding Editor and Chief Political Correspondent for The Copper Courier, and has worked as a journalist in Phoenix for over a decade. He also teaches multimedia journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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