Walmart Settles Hot-fuel Suit

A series of hot-fuel lawsuits dating back to 2007 could be nearing an end as three big retailers, including Walmart, have agreed to reach settlements.

Attorneys for the Bentonville, Ark,.-based mega-retailer and its Sam’s Club subsidiary, along with San Antonio-based  Valero Energy Corp. and Casey’s General Stores Inc. in Ankeny, Iowa, have told the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., that each has reached an “enforceable settlement agreement” with the plaintiffs, the Kansas City Star reported. The newspaper cited orders posted by the court;s chief judge, Kathryn Vratil. If Vratil approves the settlements, they will apply to dozens of hot-fuel lawsuits filed across the country.

News of the retailers’ agreements comes less than two weeks after it was revealed that BP Products North America Inc., as well as ConocoPhillips Inc. and Shell Oil Products US, all based in Houston, had reached a settlement over the legal action. The issue behind hot fuel refers to when diesel and gasoline is sold warmer than the standard 60 degrees Fahrenheit. While fuel temperature is compensated for at all points of the refining and wholesale fuel process, it’s not at the retail pump. When fuel is warmer than the standard, it expands, giving consumers less energy for the price, as PG sister publication CSNews Online previously reported.

Details of the Walmart settlement weren’t disclosed; however, the Kansas City Star said the recent agreements could further advance the day when fuel pumps in the United States start adjusting for hot fuel. Walmart, Valero and Casey’s own all or some of their stores that sell fuel.

Judy Dugan, research director for Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based public interest group, told the newspaper that selling fuel in a fair manner by adjusting it for temperature appeared to be nearer, at least in some locations. “The wall of resistance is crumbling, and that is good news,” she said.

But Dan Gilligan, president of the Arlington, Va.-based Petroleum Marketers Association of America, which represents retailers, said his group remained firmly opposed to temperature-adjusted fuel and would continue to fight it. The association has maintained that the switch wouldn’t be worth it, weighing the cost of switching pumps against the scope of the problem.

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