Post-Sandy price gouging cited at 2 Hudson Valley gas stations
VideosNY Attorney General: 3 Westchester gas stations accused of price gouging Sandy victims facing housing problems ahead of Stony Point shelter closure Despite the snow, hurricane cleanup continues in Nyack
The state has started taking action against 12 gas stations, including Mobil stations at 80 Bedford Road in Katonah and at 189 Route 59 in Spring Valley, for alleged price gouging, according to a release posted Thursday on the attorney general's official website.
Schneiderman's office sent investigation notifications to the stations accused of jacking up prices during the gasoline shortage after October's storm.
PHOTOS: Superstorm Sandy photos in Hudson Valley
"There will be no tolerance for unscrupulous individuals who take advantage of New Yorkers trying to rebuild their lives," Schneiderman said in a statement.
The other stations being investigated are four in Long Island and six in New York City.
So far, Schneiderman's office has cited 25 retailers in its price-gouging probe. Earlier in November, Schneiderman's office determined that three Westchester County gas stations, two in White Plains and one in Cortlandt Manor, had charged customers more than $5 a gallon for regular gas in Sandy's aftermath.
Schneiderman's office has notified the stations of the investigation and is asking for pricing data such as what the stations originally paid for the gasoline, the amount they sold it for and whether the stations can justify the cost, the attorney general's office said.
If the attorney general believes that stations unfairly raised prices, the state could slap owners with fines as high as thousands of dollars, Schneiderman's office said.
The Katonah station allegedly jacked up prices to $4.79 a gallon, and the Spring Valley station allegedly smacked customers at $4.65 a gallon. According to state data, the average price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline the week that Sandy hit was $3.87.
In a phone interview Thursday, Robert Lewis, an attorney representing Jalled Corp., the entity that leases the Spring Valley Mobil station, did not deny that prices rose after Sandy. But he said the owners did so to cover costs incurred after they were forced to hire extra workers to maintain order for the roughly half-mile gas lines that appeared in the storm's aftermath.
"There was absolutely no intent to price gouge at all," said Lewis, who said the price of a gallon of regular gasoline increased 30 cents Nov. 3-5. "All they did was cover their costs."
Lewis added that Jalled would fight any potential litigation brought forth by the attorney general's office.
A message left with the Katonah station Thursday was not immediately returned.
Sandy's damage led to the most severe gas crisis to strike the region since the 1970s as widespread power outages disabled retailers and refineries throughout the area. In the days immediately following the storm, long lines, short tempers and even fistfights became a common occurrence at the few stations that remained open.
A rationing program, divided between even- and odd-numbered license plates, was instituted in parts of the state. Officials have begun to ease such restrictions.