In the rotunda of the California State Capitol, Governor Newsom signs legislation holding Big Oil accountable.
In the rotunda of the California State Capitol, Governor Newsom signs legislation holding Big Oil accountable. Credit:

Prince James Story

Play by the rules or pay the price. That message was delivered on Tuesday when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SBX 1-2.

Many Californians suffered economically during and after the pandemic paying their rent, buying groceries, and even purchasing gas. Yet, while California suffered from high gas prices, oil companies turned a huge profit. 

In 2021, oil companies made a $55.7 billion profit. Chevron alone, made $36.5 billion, which doubled their 2021 profits; Marathon brought in $14.5 billion with 4th quarter profits of $3.32 billion, a  331% surge from the previous year, and Valero made $11.6 billion, which was 866% higher than the previous year, according to a press release from the state.

Gas prices reached a high of $6.42 per gallon last fall, a record $2.61 more per gallon than the national average. Last fall’s spike occurred while crude oil prices dropped, state taxes and fees remained unchanged and gas prices did not increase outside the western U.S., so the high prices went straight to the industry’s bottom line. Credit:

Protections from profits on the backs of consumers

Californians paid $2.61 more per gallon than anywhere else. At the same time, working-class Californians spent as much as 13% of their annual pre-tax income on gas.

“This proposal will make it much harder for the state’s big oil refiners to rip off hardworking California families and rake in record profits on the backs of consumers by installing much-needed transparency in the state’s opaque retail fuel market. By requiring these companies to disclose key information about supply chain costs, it will be a lot harder for them to do this again,” Bill Allayaud, California Director of Government Affairs for the Environmental Working Group, stated. 

SBX1-2 will establish a price-gouging penalty on oil companies’ excess profits to deter excessive price increases and keep money in Californians’ pockets.

Establishing oversight

The bill will also create a new division, the Division of Petroleum Market Oversight, inside the California Energy Commission (CEC). It is staffed with economists, fuel market experts, and legal investigators. 

This division will provide oversight and analysis of the transportation fuels market and provide guidance and recommendations to the CEC.

Senator Nancy Skinner, the author of SBX 1-2, said, “This is the strongest, most effective transparency and oversight measure in the nation. And this landmark law will allow us to hold oil companies accountable if they pad their profits at the expense of hard-working families.”

This bill has the support of multiple environmental justice leaders throughout California. 

“Oil and gas companies view Californians as nothing more than profit. Developing an independent watchdog committee will help keep the oil industry in check. Leaving this industry unchecked has led to an exploitation of California families and workers,” said Cesar Aguirre, Kern County Oil and Gas Director, Central California Environmental Justice Network.

Newsom assures future transparency

Gov. Newsom delivered a powerful speech assuring Californians that, moving forward, they will have more insight into transparency with the gas price in this state. 

Surrounded by State officials, Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses the public after signing SBX 1-2. (Source:

He also made it a point to reiterate California’s goals for renewable energy and Zero-Emission Vehicles and the promise that as the oil wells are cautiously phased out, there will be jobs in this field. 

Newsom said they must be diligent and responsible for creating jobs in communities like Kern county, which will be disproportionately affected by this new legislation. 

Newsom said 22.7% of cars sold in the fourth quarter in California last year were electric vehicles. 

“We want to dominate the future. [We have] six times more clean energy jobs in this state and fossil fuel jobs. We want to dominate the future, and we want to do it justly. We want to make sure that transition leaves no one behind,” Newsom proclaimed.

Report for America Corps member and Black Voice News Climate and Environmental Justice reporter, Prince James Story was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He is an intersectional journalist with experience covering news and sports across numerous mediums. Story aims to inform the public of social inequities and discriminatory practices while amplifying the voices of those in the communities harmed. Story earned his master’s degree in Sports Journalism from Arizona State University-Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He earned a B.A. in Mass Communication and a B.A. in African American studies from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Contact Prince James with tips, comments, or concerns at or via Twitter @PrinceJStory.