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    Robertson Considers Oil Lawsuit

    The Christian Coalition founder says Big Oil conspired to keep him out of the refining business.

    Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson yesterday accused Big Oil companies in California of trying to block him from reopening a small refinery in the state and said he is considering an antitrust lawsuit.

    Robertson, at a news conference with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), reiterated complaints that unnamed oil companies had thwarted efforts to get financing to reopen the refinery near Los Angeles.

    Asked what companies he would seek out in a lawsuit Robertson replied, "Pretty much all of them doing business in California and they can sort themselves out."

    The American Petroleum Institute, which represents the major oil companies, declined comment on Robertson's allegations. The trade association in the past has said there is no evidence of collusion among oil companies against independent refiners and noted that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has found no antitrust violations in two recent investigations. The California Supreme Court also recently rejected an antitrust case involving gasoline marketing in California, according to Reuters.

    Yesterday, Robertson came to Capitol Hill to meet with Wyden to discuss his complaints that major oil companies are blocking his attempt to open a small California refinery. Wyden claimed the case is clear evidence of anticompetitive market conditions in the oil industry, although some of the questionable actions may fall short of violating antitrust laws, the report said.

    Robertson's family trust purchased the closed Powerine Refinery in 1998 using money from the sale of some of his family's broadcasting interests. He said he's been seeking bank financing to reopen it ever since, renaming it Cenco Refining Co.

    Last January, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department reached an agreement with Cenco to install ``cutting edge air pollution controls, reducing emissions up to 85 percent,'' according to an EPA announcement. The agreement was designed to produce cleaner gasoline required by the California Air Resources Board.

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