High gas prices fuel anger in McGrath

Posted: Thursday, April 29, 2010

ANCHORAGE - Residents in the town of McGrath went to bed Friday with the price of gasoline at just under $6 a gallon.

When they drove to McGrath's lone pump the following day, the price was $9.20, prompting shock in the Kuskokwin River town 415 miles northwest of Anchorage.

"Outraged would probably be the best one-word description," said Kas Healy.

The spike follows a winter that nearly drained the city's unleaded fuel supply. Crowley Petroleum Distribution had to fly in a supply Friday, and a company official said the cost increase reflects the difference between flying the fuel and shipping it on a barge.

"When I get a bill from the company that flies in the fuel and it says what the price is, I at least have to pass that on or we're not going to be in business," said Bob Cox, vice president of sales.

The earliest Crowley would be able to send a barge is early June, so the high prices will likely stick for some time. The barge could also be delayed by the same shallow river levels that prevented it from delivering its final load of fuel last fall.

Angry residents have formed an anti-Crowley Facebook page and are trying to boycott the company.

"For people who basically are living at subsistence levels, I think it's criminal that this is not regulated," Healy said.

Mayor Dustin Parker said he hopes McGrath will find a way to fly in fuel at a lower cost.

"Yes, we expected a little bit of an increase for sure, around a dollar, but no one expected over $3 a gallon," Parker said.

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