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Agency plans study of gas prices

The Washington State Office of the Attorney General is partnering with other agencies to do a comprehensive study of Washington’s gasoline prices.

The attorney general will work with the Governor’s Office, the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development and University of Washington economist Keith Leffler in hopes of answering questions about differences in gas prices from city to city, said Kristin Alexander, public information officer.

Spokane is among an initial group of markets that will be studied, including Seattle, Tacoma, Bellingham, Bremerton, Olympia, Vancouver, Tri-Cities and Yakima.

The study may answer why Spokane’s average price for a gallon of unleaded was $2.99 on Monday, while the same gas was averaging $3.18 in Seattle, according to the AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. On that same day, Washington’s gas was the second highest in the nation.

While the attorney general’s office has routinely performed investigations in response to inquiries from public officials and citizens, the last comprehensive report on gasoline prices was done in 1991, she said.

“This is the first time we’ve teamed up for a study of this magnitude,” Alexander said.

Although a goal of the project is to explore why some people living in certain parts of the state pay more for gasoline than others, it won’t likely delve into the inner workings of big oil companies.

Alexander expects the first phase of the study to be complete in July and the agency will share the results during community forums this fall.