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Nassau pols urge extending ban on gas zone pricing

Nassau County Legislator Kevan Abrahams speaks at the

Nassau County Legislator Kevan Abrahams speaks at the public hearing on the proposed Lighthouse Project held at Hofstra University. (July 4, 2009) Credit: Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan

Two Nassau County legislators Thursday called on the State Senate to join the Assembly in extending the ban on zone pricing for gasoline, which they said unfairly charges more in well-to-do communities than in those less so.

"Oil companies charge what they think is the ability to pay in certain areas, dubbed zones, and the state recently banned that - but refineries and distributors were not included, and they're the ones who actually sell to the retailers," said Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead) at a news conference on the issue at a Mobil service station in East Meadow.

Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) said that an amendment to add refineries and distributors to the 2008 ban passed the State Assembly but stalled in the Senate. "Therefore, we . . . urge you to give this amendment . . . your support," said a letter to the Senate from the two local lawmakers, which they shared at the gas station. Both lawmakers are among the 19 county legislators who are up for election this year.

But Cathy Kenny, the associate director of the New York State Petroleum Council, said both lawmakers "don't understand how the market works. It's consumer choice."

She added, "They want the same price in Plattsburgh as in New York City."

Kenny also cited a memo from the state's Consumer Protection Board that basically said the 2008 zone pricing ban is vague. But the memo also said "the core principles of zone pricing are prejudicial and unfair to consumers."

Kenny said the 2008 legislation called for the state attorney general to enact regulations within 90 days, "which he has yet to do."

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office did not respond to queries on the issue.

Peter Holmstedt, the owner of the gas station and a board member of the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association, said he and his organization back the amendment. "We support this total ban in the county, which will end a discriminatory practice and benefit all members of the community," he said.

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