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Posted at 02:08 PM ET, 11/15/2011

D.C. Council bill targeting gas station mogul running on empty

The D.C. Council halted efforts Tuesday to break up what some members call a near monopoly of the local gasoline market after the sponsor of the legislation conceded it was not likely to pass the 13-member body.

Speaking from the dais moments before the bill an initial vote on the bill, council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) asked that the legislation be put off until at least January.

“All I am asking is that I have additional time to continue discussions with council members about this bill,” Cheh said.

Cheh’s request underscores the hostile environment she faced within the body as she tried to round up support for the proposal aimed at Eyob “Joe” Mamo, whose company owns, operates or supplies 164 stations in the Washington area.

To try to infuse more competition into the marketplace, the bill would bar wholesalers from operating the service stations or collecting the profits associated with gasoline sales.

But Mamo, who is well connected in local and national political circles, and his allies have put up a stiff fight to derail the legislation. Several council members worry the proposal unfairly targets a successful African American entrepreneur.

Noting that Cheh’s proposal was not likely to be approved, council members Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) urged the council to postpone a vote on the legislation indefinitely. But a majority agreed with Cheh to instead delay the vote until January.

“It’s not dead,” Cheh said in an interview. “It’s scheduled to come back in January and still in discussion. But admittedly I did not want to go forward because on the merits I did not have the votes.”

Lon Anderson, manager of public affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, blasted the council’s decision.

“The council should be looking out for the interests of 600,000 residents, but instead it appears to have put the interest of one person above the 600,000,” Anderson said.

But critics noted that the bill could face a court challenge and questioned whether it would lower the price of gas.

By  |  02:08 PM ET, 11/15/2011

 
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