D.C. Council halts effort to break uplocal gasoline market

November 15, 2011

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

Speaking from the dais moments before an initial vote on the bill, Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) asked that the legislation be shelved 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, an Ethio­pian immigrant 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 have said the proposal unfairly targets a successful black entrepreneur.

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

Critics said the bill could face a court challenge and questioned whether it would lower the price of gas.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.
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