High Washington gas prices? Blame Cherry Point refinery fire, AAA says

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If you’ve heard that gas prices are higher in Washington state than elsewhere in the country, you may have heard the excuse that a refinery that was supposed to be working is unexpectedly offline.

“We were down here a week ago and (gas) was $3.89, and now it’s $4.15,” said Mike Kalanj, who was visiting from Vancouver, B.C., and filling up at a gas station less than a mile from the refinery.

That – gas prices that appear to be rising right before our eyes – has been painfully apparent to Washington residents.

“I don’t know why they went up,” Kalanj said.

KIRO 7 didn’t know either, so we talked to AAA spokesman Dave Overstreet.

“The west coast stocks, they call them, are at their lowest May level since May 1992,” he said. “That’s due to a combination of factors, but among them is the problems with the refineries we’ve been having.”

Chief among those problems, Overstreet said, is the spectacular fire that broke out last February at Cherry Point, which knocked the refinery offline.

KIRO 7 also spoke to BP about the rising gas prices.

“Well, I don’t know what’s affecting it,” BP Spokesman Mike Abendhoff said.

He said that even before the fire, the refinery was scheduled to be offline for major maintenance work through all of May, and no one should have expected it to restart so soon.

“We’ve been on a slow, deliberate pace to ensure that when (a) restart does happen, that it’s done safely as well as timely,” Abendhoff said.

He said BP is doing some work at the refinery and the company doesn’t expect it to be operational until early June.