Tesoro loses bid to limit probe

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2002

ANCHORAGE - The Alaska Supreme Court has ruled against Tesoro Petroleum Corp. in its attempt to limit the scope of the state attorney general's gasoline price-fixing investigation.

Tesoro had appealed a lower court ruling requiring the company to turn over scores of internal documents, and that state officials had the right to show the documents to a San Francisco law firm hired to help with the probe.

The high court, with the justices split 3-1, affirmed Superior Court Judge Peter Michalski's ruling that the state wasn't seeking an "unreasonable and oppressive" stack of records. The majority also found that the law firm of Hosie, Frost & Large qualified as an "authorized employee" of the state and therefore may see the documents from the investigation into what Attorney General Bruce Botelho calls the "Alaska paradox."

The attorney general's office is investigating Alaska gasoline prices, which are among the highest in the nation despite the fact that Alaska is home to the largest oil fields in North America and has enough local refining capacity to meet demand.

As part of the investigation Attorney General Bruce Botelho requested documents from numerous oil refining, marketing and retailing companies seeking records about pricing, profits, marketing and strategy.

Tesoro led a group of companies in resisting the demands. Tesoro, which has both a refinery and dozens of gas stations in Anchorage and elsewhere in the state, said it was being forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to compile hundreds of boxes of possibly irrelevant records dating back 10 years or more to satisfy the state.

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