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GOP Conference Chair wants hearings into energy prices


From Ted Barrett
CNN Capitol Hill Producer

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A high-ranking Republican congressman joined a chorus of congressional Democrats Monday in calling for hearings into rising energy prices although he said he does not think energy companies are price gouging.

"I believe there is a need to get answers from energy companies with respect to the price of gas and electricity, mergers of companies and the supply of oil and gas in the United States," GOP Conference Chairman J.C. Watts, R-Oklahoma, said in a statement.

But he told CNN he doesn't think energy companies are hiking prices to raise profits. "I suspect that's not the case. I suspect that's not happening," he said.

Watts, a former public utility commissioner and oil and gas commissioner in energy-rich Oklahoma, joins Sen. Carl Levin, the incoming chair of the investigations subcommittee of the Governmental Affairs Committee, and several other Democrats in the House and Senate who want to look into why the soaring energy costs have coincided with record profits for many energy companies.

Watts said there is volatility and instability in the market and that hearings should look at conservation, production, and environmental concerns.

Watts said he notified the chairman of two committee with jurisdiction over energy policy of his request to hold hearings.

Watts defended his call for a congressional inquiry.

"As a free-market conservative, I take a back seat to no one in the promotion of capitalist initiatives and reducing excessive regulations put on the industry." he said. "Hearings in the House on mergers, pricing and supply will shed lights on the impact this has on consumers."

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