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Oil companies give oral testimony as part of BCUC inquiry into soaring gas prices

Last Updated Jul 17, 2019 at 8:28 am PDT

(iStock Photo)
Summary

The BCUC is expected to release a report into high gas prices as official hearings begin on Wednesday

Oral proceedings as part of the BCUC's inquiry into high gas prices begin in Vancouver on Wednesday

The B.C. Utilities Commission has been reviewing the gas industry landscape around the province since May

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – British Columbians are about to get their first look into what the B.C. Utilities Commission has learned about the province’s frustratingly high gas prices.

The regulator is planning on releasing its first report on the issue Wednesday, as it also kicks off four days of testimony from gas companies and industry officials.

Some people blame the pain at the pump on pipeline politics, while others believe gas companies are simply fixing the prices.

The BCUC has been reviewing the industry landscape since May. Oil and gas companies have been under fire for refusing to submit financial data — including information about profit margins — in the weeks leading up to the beginning of oral testimony. It’s something the premier and others have expressed frustration over.

Some companies, like Imperial Oil, say they will be offering more information verbally, but for the most part, these corporations have maintained their profit margin data is too commercially sensitive to release.

“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,” Imperial Oil wrote in its response to the BCUC’s request for information.

In its response to how its refining margin compares to other refiners elsewhere in Canada and elsewhere in its market area, Shell said: “… 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.”

7-11 and Super Save were among the companies that did hand over their numbers, however, the information posted online to the BCUC was heavily redacted.

B.C.’s Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology said, at the time, that he was “disappointed” after learning most oil companies refused to cooperate with the review of high gas prices.

“People deserve to know why the price of gasoline in B.C. has seen such wild swings,” Bruce Ralston said in a statement. “I urge everyone to cooperate fully with the BCUC investigation as the Commission has committed to protecting all sensitive information.”

So whether it’s the refineries, the gas stations, or taxes that are pushing costs so high, it will ultimately be up to a panel of three to ask the right questions as industry officials appear under oath in downtown Vancouver this week.

You can watch the livestream here.

-With files from Liza Yuzda, Hana Mae Nassar, and Marcella Bernardo