Oil refineries may face investigation - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Oil refineries may face investigation

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KENNEWICK, Wash. - Drivers in the northwest are no stranger to gas price spikes. It happened this fall and earlier this spring. Both times, outages at two different west coast oil refineries were blamed. But a report by an Oregon based research group suggests that may not be the case.

While gas prices are finally leveling out in the Tri-Cities, it wasn't so long ago they were over $4 a gallon. This recent report said even though at least two California refineries said they were down for maintenance, emissions show that they were still in operation.

It also found that the gasoline inventories were, in fact, growing in May as prices at the pump soared in the northwest.

For several years, Senator Maria Cantwell has fought for consumer rights concerning artificially high prices.

"It's the same shenanigans that happened in electricity, it's the same shenanigans in natural gas and yes, the same shenanigans are happening in the oil market," Cantwell said.

Cantwell reportedly plans to send a letter to the Justice Department and the Obama Administration calling for an investigation into the price hikes.

According to the research report, the October spike added nearly a 70 cent per gallon windfall profit for oil companies, or about $25 million a day.

The difference in what drivers paid and what they should have paid was more than $1 billion and during that time the report shows gas inventories were actually increasing.