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Colorado gas prices to stay high through the Fall

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Colorado Springs residents are paying an average of $3.84 per gallon, and that price isn't expected to decline anytime soon.

Max Marsiglio plays for the Pueblo Bulls Hockey Club. He drives to Pueblo nearly every day for games and practices, requiring him to fill up at least twice a week.

The state’s supply diminished after Suncor, its only refinery, had to shut down for repairs, following extreme cold weather and two fires. Suncor provides 35-40% of the state’s fuel.

Chief Petroleum, a fuel provider in Colorado Springs, said it has been traveling to a refinery in Kansas to get its fuel — a five hour one-way trip. And this doesn’t account for the long lines. Out-of-state refineries are seeing increased demand since Suncor’s closure with waits as long as four hours.

“The business model is built typically around a local transport truck running five to six local loads,” said Eric Liebold, the operations manager for Chief Petroleum. “That truck now is running one load out of Kansas.”

Liebold said the problem at the pump is a classic equation of supply versus demand.

“Supply has been drastically cut, demand remains high, so prices are going to continue to rise,” he said. “We are passing those costs along from our suppliers on to our customers.”

To try and increase supply, Governor Jared Polis declared a disaster emergency Dec. 31 due to the fuel shortage. He extended that order Monday afternoon.

In a statement to 13 Investigates, Polis said, "We are continuing to update our federal partners on the current status and are working with private suppliers to ensure the state has adequate fuel supplies until the refinery is operational."

The executive order waives certain regulations, allowing fuel trucks to haul more weight and drivers to work longer days. Usually, wait times at a refinery count toward a driver’s 14-hour day, the order doesn't include wait times. This means a trucker can wait at a refinery for four hours and still work an 18-hour day.

"What the governor's done is save Colorado families tens of millions of dollars and fuel costs that otherwise would have been impacting Colorado families right now," said Grier Bailey, the executive director of Colorado Petroleum.

Liebold said the executive order has helped but he still wants to avoid asking Chief Petroleum drivers to work 20-hour days.

“You're asking a lot out of those drivers, and we have to factor in safety and we can only push people so far,” he said.

Suncor said it is expected to be operational near the end of March. But just as fuel supply increases, Colorado will have to switch to an EPA-mandated summer fuel, which traditionally raises gas prices.

“We would be seeing lower prices than almost anywhere in the country, especially with a supply shortage,” said Bailey. “The prices are up and they're going to stay up until September, October this year.”

In the meantime, Colorado is trying to work with suppliers, like Phillips 66 and Valero, to increase the amount of gas they bring to the state, as well as the fuel flowing through pipelines.

“We have one refinery,” said Angie Binder, the executive director of the Colorado Petroleum Association. “We have very few limited pipelines that bring refined petroleum into the state. Any time there's an upset in that distribution, we see issues with gasoline supply in Colorado.”

Joseph Gordon pulled his truck and trailer into a gas station Monday. His family owns a hay hauling business and he travels from Woodland Park to Fort Collins nearly every day. He said the the financial effect at the pump trickles down to more than just gas.

"Since the gas prices have gone up, it's sometimes over $1,000 a week in fuel," Gordon said. "I put in a lot in fuel, which means we just have to pass the price on to consumers who buy our hay, which is unfortunate."

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Quinn Ritzdorf

Quinn is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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