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CNN Today

Chicago Congressmen Hold Hearings on Soaring Gas Prices

Aired June 19, 2000 - 2:15 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: As we are all aware by now, gas prices are going up dramatically. In Chicago, they're demanding relief.

And we get that story now from our Chicago bureau chief, Jeff Flock.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF FLOCK, CHICAGO BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): It is a simple question...

REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: Why are gas prices so much higher in Chicago than in the rest of the country?

FLOCK: ... and so Chicago congressmen have called the EPA, the oil companies and the Energy Department together to explain and to hear from the people who are feeling the impact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Increased costs affect the county's costs.

FLOCK: The president of the Cook County, Illinois Board says fuel costs for county vehicles are now jeopardizing the county's ability to provide health care for the poor. A Chicago alderman says it's the poorest Chicagoans who are least able to pay for the high prices who are the hardest hit. And a representative from the state's Small Business Association says delivery businesses, like florists and taxis...

JUDITH RONSSEL, ILLINOIS SMALL BUSINESS ASSN.: .. are finding their narrow profit margins evaporating, we believe, almost as quickly as gasoline itself evaporates when exposed to air.

FLOCK: It is keeping that rate of evaporation low to meet clean air standards that the oil companies have suggested is partly to blame for the rising costs.

BOB PERCIASEPE, EPA: The cost of producing it does not account for these differentials that you are seeing.

FLOCK: The EPA rejects the notion that it's the new, reformulated gas that's the problem and cautioned against scrapping the cleaner gas.

PERCIASEPE: We're talking about 8,000 tons of air pollution this summer will be reduced because of reformulated gasoline, and 2 million tons of air toxins.

FLOCK (on camera): Representatives of the oil companies told the hearings there is enough blame to go around. In addition to reformulated gasoline, they point to high fuel taxes in Chicago, and also say that the EPA requires them to make as many as 12 different grades of gasoline in Illinois, which also helps to drive up prices.

I'm Jeff Flock, CNN, in Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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