Final Arguments Heard on ‘Hot Fuel’ Settlements

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — “Hot fuel” plaintiffs who accused oil companies and retailers of overcharging for gasoline that expanded on hot summer days pushed a court here to proceed with a $24.5-million settlement with more than 28 defendants.

As CSNews Online reported in March, 7-Eleven Inc. and Sheetz Inc. are among a group of convenience store retailers that oppose the settlement, alleging that those companies settling are attempting to push a pro-automatic temperature compensation (ATC) campaign that was already rejected by a congressional body, and to deprive ATC opponents of their First Amendment rights.

On Jan. 26, the U.S. District Court for Kansas gave preliminary approval to settlements with 28 defendants — including BP Products North America Inc., Casey's General Stores Inc., ConocoPhillips Co., Chevron USA Inc., E-Z Mart Stores Inc., ExxonMobil Corp., Flash Market Inc., Shell Oil Products US, Thorntons Inc., Motiva Enterprises LLC, Sinclair Oil Corp. and Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores — regarding a consumer class-action lawsuit concerning how gasoline and diesel fuel are sold at retail gas stations.

The amounts each company will pay vary, with BP, ConocoPhillips, Exxon and Shell responsible for paying out $5 million each, while some smaller retailers will only be on the hook for $21,000.

The issue behind "hot fuel" refers to when diesel and gasoline are sold warmer than the standard 60 degrees Fahrenheit. While fuel temperature is compensated for at all points of the refining and wholesale fuel process, it's not at the retail pump. When fuel is warmer than the standard, it expands and allegedly gives consumers less energy for the price.

On Monday, the plaintiffs said they provided notice of the settlements to attorneys general, as well as to weights and measures officials from all 50 states and other U.S. territories, and none have objected, according to legal website Law360.

“If the settlements were unfair and unreasonable, or if the relief afforded by the settlements violated any state laws, these governmental officials could have stated as much,” the plaintiffs said Monday. “They have not.”

In addition to 7-Eleven and Sheetz, three affected class members have also objected to the proposed settlements, claiming they would unfairly impact consumers in states with cold weather who benefit from ATC not being in place.

Theodore H. Frank, attorney for the two individual objectors and an objector himself, told Law360 Tuesday that the settlements are “absurd and should not be approved.”

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