County Pondering Measures To Prevent Deceptive Gas Pricing

The Palm Beach County Commission on Tuesday shortened its postponement of a policy to prevent deceptive gas price posting from July to April 22 in order to beat possible state legislation that could prevent local regulation.

The commissioners have considered enacting regulations for gas stations that prohibit practices such as displaying gas prices conspicuously, with the “cash price” stipulation posted so small that it is difficult for a motorist to see until he pulls into the station.

Commissioners originally planned to postpone their decision until July in order to talk with gas station owners, but Commissioner Hal Valeche pointed out that the Florida Legislature is also working on a bill that might be approved before July, preempting anything the county might enact.

Valeche explained that bills are on their way through the legislature that would prohibit local government from amending comprehensive plans, land use maps, zoning districts or land development regulations to make fuel stations nonconforming uses.

“Something has to be done,” Valeche said. “We have two options. One is to delay this for 90 days, but there is sort of an unknown risk at the legislative level that we could be pre-empted from doing it.”

Valeche said he would like for the county regulation to be grandfathered in before the possible state regulations are enacted. He noted that he had been asked by a gas station representative to delay the county decision because of possible action in July that would promulgate a state or federal standard, which might force gas stations to redesign the signs twice.

“We haven’t really found anything that is taking place in July,” Valeche said. “I’m not certain if this was not just a delaying tactic waiting for legislative action to take place, but I’d like direction about what we should be doing.”

County Administrator Bob Weisman said his staff originally had put the item on the agenda for approval before Valeche had made contact with gas industry representatives, and staff had recommended the postponement to July. Weisman advised against the commission’s other option to enact the county regulations immediately, since interested parties might not be at the meeting. He suggested postponing to the commission’s next meeting, Tuesday, April 22.

“I do think there is a possibility that people are being deceived, and I think it should be made uniform,” Valeche said. “There are vendors that do a very good job of being transparent about prices, but there are others that are, I think, intentionally trying to draw them in and then charge them more than they thought they were going to be charged.”

Commissioner Shelly Vana made a motion to postpone the item to April 22, which carried 7-0.

In other business, the commissioners approved the Southeast Florida Climate Action Plan, intended to provide recommendations in support of regionally coordinated strategies and efforts in the areas of climate change mitigation, adaptation planning and community resilience.

Assistant County Administrator Jon Van Arnam said a general climate action plan was introduced in a workshop in September 2013.

“This plan represents the most significant work of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Conference Compact,” Van Arnam said. “It’s a culmination of more than three years of technical planning involving collaboration among Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties, and reflects the support of diverse agencies and stakeholders from across the region.”

He said the plan stands to help reduce greenhouse gases and protect the assets of the region that contribute to its quality of life.

Environmental Resources Department Director Bob Robbins said the plan includes a regional greenhouse gas inventory. “We know the approximate amount of greenhouse gases in the county, actually over the region,” Robbins said. “Over time, as we implement some of the portions of the plan, we can see whether or not greenhouse gas reduction is occurring, and that certainly is our goal.”

The plan also lays out a unified sea-level rise projection, and specifies a methodology for providing vulnerability assessments. “This is so that we’re all using the same language across the counties when we’re talking about potential changes as a result of the climate,” Robbins said.

The plan includes 110 recommendations, such as building sustainable communities, transportation issues and identifying communities that are susceptible to sea-level flooding.

“That’s something we haven’t done in the past, and that is something that is new and fairly intuitive,” he said.

The plan also recommends infrastructure improvements that will address sea-level rise, while coordinating with existing provisions.

“The county already makes infrastructure improvements around the county, and so this plan should be a consideration when those infrastructure improvements are occurring,” Robbins said.

He added that county staff has also encouraged municipalities to take advantage of the plan.


ABOVE: The Palm Beach County Commission.


  1. I was at the Circle K gas station in Loxahatchee where the meter read .34 cents before I even had a drop of gas in my tank. Also, and how is it that the new Mobil station on Seminole-Pratt-Whitney, again, in Loxahatchee, was allowed to open without ANY sign indicating how much their gas prices are? They’ve been open for a couple weeks now and still no price signs.

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