California Attorney General Sues to Stop Sale of Martinez Oil Terminal

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra speaks at a press conference Thursday as he announces his new effort to stop the sale of a Martinez oil terminal to Valero. (Sonja Hutson/KQED)

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Thursday he will file another motion in an antitrust lawsuit to stop Valero Energy Corp. from purchasing a Martinez oil terminal, which he says could raise gas prices.

Plains All American Pipeline currently owns the terminal, which imports and exports petroleum. According to Becerra, if Valero acquires the terminal, all three “critical” Northern California petroleum terminals would be owned by refineries. That would stifle competition and potentially cause gas prices to spike in a state where prices are already above the national average, he said.

“The demand for gasoline won't dictate the price of gasoline,” Becerra said. “It could be that the suppliers can manipulate the supply to dictate the price of gasoline. That is not good for California families.”

In a statement, Valero said it will fight the lawsuit, noting the Federal Trade Commission has been studying the issue for 10 months and has not stepped in to stop the deal.

Valero also said it wants to expand capacity at the terminal to benefit California consumers.

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One of Becerra's predecessors, Bill Lockyer, forced Valero to sell the Martinez facility in 2005 as part of an antitrust deal after the company acquired two terminals under an earlier business deal.

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“When there is a settlement, you don’t expect the company to undo parts of that down the line,” said UC Hastings Law professor Robin Feldman. “At the same time, times change, competition changes and the question is always, what is the market today?”

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