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Reports of cutbacks in summertime gas false, Shell Oil says

Sacramento Bee: Reports of cutbacks in summertime gas false, Shell Oil says

By Melanie Payne — Bee Staff Writer

Published 2:15 am PDT Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Shell Oil Co. denied Monday that it will cut summertime gasoline production at its refineries in Bakersfield and Martinez.

A story in the Los Angeles Times, citing internal documents, reported that the company would cut crude oil processing by 10 percent during July at the Martinez refinery and by 6 percent in July and August at the Bakersfield refinery Shell intends to close.

The article set off a flurry of letters from Jamie Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, to state Attorney General Bill Lockyer and to the Federal Trade Commission.

Court called the documents “incontrovertible evidence the company has once again misled California about its stated reasons for the shutdown of Shell’s Bakersfield refinery.” Court’s concern was that production cuts would drive up gasoline prices during the summer driving months.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, Shell said the documents obtained by the newspaper “represent preliminary and early planning scenarios that have since been reviewed and revised.”

Court countered that any revisions must have been recent because the documents detail fuel prices as late as May 25. He said the documents show that the company anticipated a drop in crude oil costs and planned to slow production in order to keep up prices at the pump.

But Joe Sparano, president of the Sacramento-based trade group Western States Petroleum Association, supported Shell’s response. Plans like those outlined in the documents change frequently to reflect changes in market conditions, he said.

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