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State to “monitor” gas prices

OLYMPIA -- If your motor is racing because Washington's gasoline prices are going up, while most of the rest of the country's prices are going down, here's something that may tach it  up further:

There is now a state agency in charge of monitoring and reporting on gasoline prices and supplies. Gov. Chris Gregoire assigned that task to the state Department of Commerce.

Among its new duties, Commerce will "closely monitor Washington state and West Coast supplies and prices." Spin Control will suggest it's first few reports:

"Hey, gas is getting damned expensive."

"Hey, it's even worse than last week."

"Geez, we can hardly afford to drive to work gas is so expensive. Can we have a raise?"

The department is also charged with "reporting any market concerns to the attorney general's office." That's an interesting idea, but it could get her in trouble with the Democratic Party. If Commerce tells the AG's office they think there's something fishy about gas prices, and the AG does something to the oil companies to make them lower the prices, Republican Rob McKenna might be elected governor for life in the November election.

Gregoire also sent letters to all the refineries in Washington, including to the boss of BP's Cherry Point refinery, which is reputed to be part of the reason prices are going up because a fire earlier this spring forced it to shut down. It's not what you'd call a "come to Jesus" letter demanding Cherry Point stop dinking around and open the gasoline spigots. It's more of a reasoned, "we're all in this together" sort of missive:

"I urge you to take all prudent measures to increase production and supplies sufficiently to reduce prices for our consumers," it says in part. The whole letter can be found here.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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