The Department of Energy yesterday charged Texaco with four violations of oil price control regulations that potentially could have resulted in overcharges of $131.9 million from 1973 to 1977.
Separately, the department's office of special counsel also charged Atlantic Richfield with improper accounting involving $62.9 million in 1976 that may or may not have led to customer overcharges.
Texaco was served with four notices of probable violation, the largest of which alleged the company overstated by $119.7 million the amount of costs avaiable to be passed on to its gasoline customers between December 1973 and January 1977.
Texaco officials said they would have a statement today about the charges, details of which reached then late yesterday.
Yesterday's actions bring to 114 the number of violations alleged by the special counsel, Paul Bloom, against the nation's 35 largest oil refiners. The total amount of money involved to date is almost $5.2 billion.
Charges against Texaco involve nearly $1.3 billion, more than against any other company. Texaco is still contesting most of the charges and as of late last month had agreed to refund less than $8 million to customers.
In fact, of the total charges involving $5.2 billion, various companies have agreed to refund a total of only $145 million, while also paying $1.352 million in civil penalties and $30,000 in criminal fines.
Yesterday's notices were served as DOE completed its 1973-76 compliance of the company's actions during last spring's gasoline crisis are still under study, they added.
The principal complaint against Texaco among yesterday's charges underscores the technical nature of the pricing regulations and of the violations.
DOE regulations generally required gasoline prices charged by refiners to be increased uniformly to all classes of customers. However, if a refiner increased prices charged one class of customer more than another, then it had to assdume it was passing on its costs as if all customers were being charged that higher price.
This distinction was important because during much of the period in question refiners were either not allowed or were unable for market reasons to pass on to customers all their cost increases. Anything not passed on could be "banked" to be passed on later, a situation that was a major factor in rapidly increasing gasoline prices this year.
DOE alleges that Texaco during much of 1974 increased gasoline prices unequally among its classes of customers, and from December, 1973, to January, 1977, also increased prices unequally among its different types of gasoline. However, Texaco did not base its cost pass-through calculations on the largest price increases to a class of purchaser, or the largest increases in a grade of gasoline, DOE charged. Therefore, DOE alleges Texaco overstated the amount of costs available to it for pass-through in later months.
The charges against Arco primarily involve the treatment of banked costs. DOE alleges Arco shifted some banked costs that had been allocated to production of middle distillates to gasoline.
Arco officials had no immediate comment on the charges.