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    California Blocks Gas Trial

    High court rules there is no evidence of an alleged conspiracy to gouge consumers for clean-burning gasoline.

    The California Supreme Court dismissed a class-action suit yesterday alleging major oil refineries colluded to gouge consumers for cleaner-burning gasoline.

    The court unanimously ruled that the suit did not provide enough evidence to support allegations that nine major oil companies in California conspired to limit supply and fix prices. "This is a resounding affirmation of our position from day one," Ron Olson, an attorney for Houston-based Shell Oil Co., one of the companies named in the suit, told the Associated Press.

    In ruling that the case cannot go to trial, Justice Stanley Mosk said that the 1996 lawsuit presented evidence that the petroleum companies may have possessed the motive, opportunity and means to unlawfully conspire.

    The lawsuit alleged that the state's largest refiners decided to share confidential information and hold back on supplies of reformulated gasoline after the state required refiners to make gasoline that would not create as much pollution, the report said. An appeals court had previously thrown out the case.

    In addition to Shell, the oil companies sued were Atlantic Richfield Co., Chevron Corp., Exxon Corp., Mobil Oil Co., 76 Products Co., Texaco Refining and Marketing Inc., Tosco Corp. and Ultramar Inc.

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