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Schumer pushes for gas probe and expanded air service

Cheektowaga resident Nicole Howatt
WBFO News photo by Joyce Kryszak
Cheektowaga resident Nicole Howatt

By Joyce Kryszak


Cheektowaga, NY – United States Senator Charles Schumer was in Cheektowaga Tuesday to announce two of his recent efforts to bolster the Western New York economy.

Schumer stood near the gas pumps at a Cheektowaga gas station to announce he is demanding a probe by the Federal Trade Commission into stubbornly high gas prices.

Customers could be seen nearby scowling at the pumps as the numbers rolled up and up. Oil prices world-wide have dropped recently. But gas prices have not fallen as fast.

Nicole Howatt pumps $50 worth of gas into the red Camry she is driving. Howatt said she has no choice.

"You have to drive places, you have to get to work to make the money to buy the gas," said Howatt. "So, you gotta go with the times, I guess."

Schumer said oil refiners are to blame, cutting production to artificially keep gas prices high. According to Schumer, refiners have seen a nearly 100 percent increase in profits in just the past six months.

A 2008 FTC investigation recently brought indictments against speculators. But Schumer said he is looking for immediate action on gas prices.

"It's of little concern if these guys are put in jail...we want them put in jail of course if they violated the law...but we're more concerned with getting the price down, and getting it down now," said Schumer.

Schumer said if the FTC agrees to investigate it could have an immediate, positive impact on gas prices merely because of the negative spotlight. But he said breaking up the big five refiners is the only long-term solution.

Meanwhile, Schumer said he is also trying, once again, to ramp up air service to Buffalo. The Senator said the merger between South West and Air Tran airlines could be a boon for local air travelers - and the WNY economy.

"With the merger it gives greater opportunity for one of the hubs of South West, which Buffalo is, to add more flights to some of the Air Tran hubs around the country that may not be getting service now," said Schumer.

Schumer said he contacted the head of South West Airlines, who he worked with closely in the past to bring the airline to Buffalo, and was assured they will take a careful look at expanding flights out of Buffalo.