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    New York to Rule on Fuel Bill

    Gov. George Pataki has until Oct. 22 to approve or veto the Motor Fuel Marketing Practices Act.

    ALBANY -- Legislation that independent service stations in New York say is vital to their survival -- but opposed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) -- has gone to Gov. George Pataki for approval or veto.

    The Motor Fuel Marketing Practices Act, which the sponsors say will prevent predatory and discriminatory pricing practices, was sent to Pataki for action on Oct. 9. Pataki has until Oct. 22 to act on the bill, according to the The Albany Business Review.

    The legislation prohibits retailers from selling gasoline at prices lower than 98 percent of total refiner and non-refiner costs. Independent gas stations need that protection to keep from being put out of business by big-box retailers that are entering the gas business, said Ralph Bombardier, executive director of the Albany-based New York State Association of Service Stations and Repair Shops Inc.

    Pataki vetoed a similar measure in 2002. This legislation was designed specifically to address those objections.

    The FTC, though, said the legislation will harm consumers and injure competition and is "inconsistent with antitrust laws," according to a letter sent by the commission to New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

    The Retail Council of New York State is also opposed to the measure because it would restrain trade, said Ted Potrikus, the council's director of government relations.

    Bombardier said he's hoping the governor ignores the FTC "because that is all they deserve," and pays attention to a report his group commissioned from EconOne Research Inc. The Los Angeles-based economic consulting firm rejected the FTC's contentions about the bill.

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