1 of 3 | Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., attend a press conference with other congressional Democrats on new legislative efforts to lower gas prices in America at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
April 28 (UPI) -- Democrats in the House and Senate announced Thursday they are working on legislation to lower gas prices at the pump and to beef up government power to go after big oil for alleged price gouging.
Legislation details were not revealed during the Capitol Hill press conference.
But Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, said the legislation would give the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general increased authority, including civil penalty authority, to "go after oil companies and retailers gouging customers" and would cover wholesale and retail sales.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said big oil has profiteered and exploited the marketplace, while refusing to increase production to lower prices.
"We are laser-focused on lowering prices at the pump and across the board, not just at the pump," Pelosi said.
Pelosi said oil companies reported profits of over $200 billion over the past year. And despite $38 billion in incentives to drill for more oil, she said big oil is not increasing production.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said lowering gas prices is the top priority for congressional Democrats.
Schumer said COVID-19-related supply chain problems and Russia's invasion of Ukraine are being exploited by big oil to price gouge consumers.
"These conditions have put consumers over a barrel and make them vulnerable to market manipulation and price-gouging," he said.
Schumer said big oil is acting "almost like vultures" by profiteering on these crises. When legislation goes to the Senate floor, Republicans will have to decide which side they're on -- consumers or big oil.
"We're here today because big oil is ripping off the American people," said Rep Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J.
Pallone chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He said oil companies are choosing to keep production low so their profits stay high.
"Elevated pump prices are driving inflation," Cantwell said. "They're wreaking havoc on American households and their budgets. And they're threatening our post-pandemic recovery."
Cantwell said her committee and the House committee are working together to write the legislation "shining a bright light on dark energy markets".