Bay Area/ Oakland/ Politics & Govt
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Published on July 10, 2024
California Strikes $50 Million Settlement with Big Oil Giants Vitol and SK Over Alleged Gas Price ManipulationSource: Google Street View

Big Oil companies face a reckoning in California as Attorney General Rob Bonta announces a substantial $50 million settlement with gas trading giants Vitol, Inc. and SK Energy Americas, Inc. According to the Office of the Attorney General, this settlement is part of California's sweeping efforts to clamp down on illegal market activities that have long plagued honest residents at the gas pump.

The damning details unearth that Vitol and SK allegedly conspired to tamper with and manipulate gas prices, a scheme that preyed on market disruptions such as the explosion at a Torrance refinery in 2015. "Petroleum companies should not get to reap mass profits out of the pockets of hardworking Californians through illegal market manipulation," Bonta stated, vehemently opposing how these oil traders profited from Californians' daily struggles. These revelations paint a picture of a sector emboldened by opacity, now being dragged into the sunlight of legal oversight and public accountability, as per the Office of the Attorney General.

Tai Milder, Director of the Division of Petroleum Market Oversight, echoed Bonta's sentiments, praising the Department of Justice for bringing this case to a conclusion and highlighting the new legislative tools provided by Senate Bill X1-2 for stronger industry monitoring. The landmark legislation aims to replace the shadows in which deceit has flourished with the transparency necessary for justice and consumer protection, making it more difficult for companies to engage in such misconduct moving forward.

Under the settlement terms, should Vitol or SK resume operations within the Golden State, they must submit comprehensive and frequent reports about all their trading activities to the Energy Commission. This stringent reporting requirement forms the backbone of Senate Bill X1-2's preventative measures against further manipulations. While these steps are commendable, Californians are reminded that if they were affected, they must proactively submit a claim to benefit from the settlement at, per directives following the lawsuit initiated in May 2020.

The fight against Big Oil and its indiscretions also continues on other fronts. Bonta's crusade against environmental deceivers extends to some of the biggest names in the industry, including Exxon Mobil and BP, for their role in climate change-related harms and deceitful practices in the state. Last September, a bold lawsuit was filed by Bonta and Governor Newsom, with further legal actions bolstering the case just last month. It seems the era of unchecked hydrocarbon hegemony is waning in California as legal nets tighten and accountability takes center stage, promising fairer skies and less volatile markets for the people who call it home.