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Petroleum companies refuse to hand over data as BCUC investigates high gas prices

Last Updated Jul 3, 2019 at 7:07 pm PST

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Oil, gas companies refusing to provide information they call 'commercially sensitive' as BCUC investigates gas prices

For the most part, many petroleum producers point to B.C.'s strict low carbon requirements as a factor for high prices

The B.C. Utilities Commission has requested retail margins as part of its inquiry into gas prices

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The B.C. Utilities Commission is having trouble accessing profit margin data from oil and gas companies as it conducts an inquiry into what is leading to high gas prices around the province.

The companies are apparently refusing to hand over what they call “commercially sensitive information.”

Imperial Oil, Shell, and Husky refuse to reveal how their retail margins in B.C. compare to to elsewhere in Canada.

The survey asks the companies to “Please provide information on your monthly average refining margin per litre of gasoline and diesel since January 2015 (by grade if possible).”

In response, Imperial Oil writes: “Given the commercial and competitive sensitivity of this information and the impact its disclosure could have on Imperial’s business, Imperial respectfully declines to answer this question.”

Related video: Inquiry into oil and gas prices in B.C.

In its response to how its refining margin compares to other refiners elsewhere in Canada and elsewhere in its market area, Shell says: “… due to the commercially sensitive and confidential nature of such information, Shell does not have access to, nor is it in a position to provide information on competitor or Shell refining margin data, respectively.”

Husky Canada, which refines oil in Prince George, says labour costs have increased alongside Hydro rates, in turn driving up wholesale gas prices.

The company also blames the new employer health tax, credit card fees, real estate and leasing costs, as well as rising maintenance costs for the increase.

While 7-11 and Super Save have handed over their numbers, the information has been redacted in the online submission to the BCUC, likely out of fairness since no one else has ponied up their data to be shared publicly.

Each company was invited to voluntary participate in a questionnaire, which asked what factors have led to increasing prices at the pump over the last few years.

For the most part, many of the petroleum producers point to B.C.’s strict low carbon requirements as a factor. Producers and retailers are also blaming the province’s relatively high fuel taxes as a reason for the pain at the pump.

The province had asked the prime minister and the B.C. Utilities Commission to drill down and find out the real reason behind skyrocketing gas prices around the province in May.

Premier John Horgan had said that blaming his government for an increase to the carbon tax didn’t add up, telling reporters that a one cent increase in gas tax shouldn’t translate into a 40 cent increase in the cost of a liter of gasoline.

Trade minister ‘disappointed’ oil companies won’t co-operate

B.C.’s Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology says he’s ‘disappointed’ after learning most oil companies have refused to cooperate with a B.C. Utilities Commission review of high gas prices.

Bruce Ralston says people have a right to know why fuel costs have such ‘wild swings.’

“I’m disappointed with the oil companies who’ve refused to provide information to the BC Utilities Commission. People deserve to know why the price of gasoline in B.C. has seen such wild swings. I urge everyone to cooperate fully with the BCUC investigation as the Commission has committed to protecting all sensitive information,” he writes in a statement.

The B.C.U.C. has the power to force companies to cooperate.

-With files from Liza Yuzda