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Lynn Moffett of Youngstown filled up her car at the BP station on Belmont Avenue in Liberty around



Published: Wed, September 12, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Lynn Moffett of Youngstown filled up her car at the BP station on Belmont Avenue in Liberty around 7:30 a.m. She said friends called her at midnight to tell her she better go out and get gas.

"I didn't care if it went up to $25 a gallon this morning. No way I was going to get out of bed and go get gas," she said.

Sheri Benton of Hermitage filled up at the Sheetz on Salt Springs this morning after trying to get gas Tuesday evening at two stations in Farrell. The lines were so long that she gave up.

"There were people everywhere," she said.

Mark Lyden, vice president of True North Energy in Austintown, said media reports of sky-high prices in other states seems to be what sparked a spate of panic-buying. "All the panic-buying occurred after the 6 o'clock news," he said.

Several of True North's Shell stations in the area had run out of gasoline by this morning, Lyden said, and filling that demand won't be easy because the company uses Shell gas exclusively and can't exceed its allocation. Allocations are based on the previous year's usage, he said.

Cause of increase: Lyden said price increases can be attributed, at least in part, to rising prices from suppliers. The price of crude oil jumped 12 percent overnight, he said, and wholesale prices to service stations increased by between 12 cents and 24 cents a gallon.

"Yes, prices could go up. Will it be $2 by this afternoon? I don't think so," he said. "We have to see what crude oil does today."

A spokesman for AAA Ohio Motorists Association in Cleveland said some service stations across the region started raising prices even before crude and wholesale prices rose.

"There are two main reasons for that," said Brian Newbacher. "Some, to be honest, just want to make a bigger profit. Others may be raising prices to keep some people away so their supply won't run out."

To report problems: Warren Mayor Hank Angelo said any resident who suspects price-gouging should call city hall at (330) 841-2603 with the name of the station, location and price. Complaints will be forwarded to the governor's office, which is collecting complaints.

Walter Duzzny, executive director of the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency, said officials won't stand for price-gouging at the gas pumps. Ohio has a law on the books the prohibits gouging during disasters or major emergencies.

"This price-gouging is illegal," Duzzny said. "It's not going to be tolerated."

Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains said Ohio's consumer sales protection act will come into play. It prevents gas stations from increasing prices in times of emergency.

He said customers who feel they were overcharged should keep their receipt and contact the state attorney general's office. The attorney general will either take action or forward information to the county prosecutor, he said.

The Associated Press said authorities in Oklahoma were investigating instances of price-gouging, and Mississippi's attorney general, Mike Moore, asked Gov. Ronnie Musgrove to declare a state of emergency, which would allow prosecutors to pursue price-gougers there.

A clerk at a North Dakota station said the price of unleaded regular shot up to $3.29, and a clerk at a station in Galesburg, Ill., reported a price of $4.

Newbacher said ExxonMobile and other suppliers are urging their dealers to "use restraint" in setting their prices. "Obviously, not everybody is doing that," he said.

Major oil companies have been assuring political leaders, however, that they don't anticipate a supply problem.

In Washington, the American Petroleum Institute, the industry trade group, issued a statement reassuring motorists that there is no threat of a fuel shortage.

"Fuels are flowing normally to wholesale and retail markets throughout the United States," said the institute, adding that gasoline and diesel fuel inventories "are adequate to meet demand."

Gas roundup: Here's what's been happening in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys:

U Across Mahoning County motorists formed long lines at service stations Tuesday evening and some stations increased prices more than once overnight. One Dairy Mart on Mahoning Avenue was selling regular unleaded gas for $1.39 per gallon Tuesday but had raised the price to $1.59 by 5 a.m. and to $1.89 by midmorning.

In the Boardman area cars were lined up along Market Street and Western Reserve Road waiting to get into the gas stations, with prices ranging from $1.39 for regular at Dairy Mart to as high as $1.75 at the old Kokolene on Market. Several Sheetz employees were directing traffic because the station was so packed with cars.

UIn Columbiana County, Salem police directed traffic as motorists crammed into gas stations to fill up their tanks Tuesday evening but there were no reported instances of violence or disorderly conduct. Prices appeared normal this morning and lines were down. All the stations checked posted prices for low-grade regular between about $1.51 per gallon and about $1.68 per gallon. Several motorists getting gas at stations in Salem today scoffed at the idea of a shortage. "People panicked," Helen Rutkousky of Salem said of Tuesday evening's lines.

Lisbon police also called out extra patrolmen to watch gas stations and direct traffic. A dispatcher said some motorists were impatient and irate as she waited in line but gas prices had not increased by this morning.

U In Trumbull County, stations along Salt Springs Road in Weathersfield Township and Belmont Avenue in Liberty Township remained busy this morning. Workers at some stations said lines formed out on the streets Tuesday evening. Stations such as BP, Speedway and Sheetz were charging $1.39 a gallon this morning.




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