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June 8, 2012 at 10:55 AM

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Cantwell could help end gas-price suspicions

Any West Coast driver standing at a gas pump watching $4-plus-a-gallon gas light up the digital readout and knowing that everyone else in the country was paying as much as 77 less a gallon, probably wondered why that was.

And the explanation from the refineries probably didn't convince everyone. The refinery operators said it was because of the Feb. 17 fire that closed down BP's Cherry Point refinery for three months and because of maintenance at other West Coast refineries.

But did they all have to go offline at about the same time, creating a supply deficit and the price jump here when the cost of gas was going down elsewhere?

That's what Sen, Maria Cantwell means to find out. The Democratic senator from Washington state has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the refinery operators and the estimated $48 million a day they might have made off the higher gas prices.

Refineries need to be operated safely and efficiently and that takes maintenance. But the timing is suspect, and Cantwell's request is timely and in keeping with making sure the oil industry is playing fair with consumers.

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