$8.99-per-gallon gasoline in New Jersey as stations protest

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(CNN) – Lukoil gas stations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania have hiked their prices to more than double the national average in protest of their parent company. A gallon of gas is going for $8 or $9 a gallon!

The stations say Lukoil North America is forcing its franchises to pay higher prices for its fuel than it charges competitors, putting stations at a disadvantage.

On Long Island, some gas station owners say angry drivers are blaming them for jacking up their prices. But they say it’s not their fault and they’re just passing on the prices that they get from their distributors.

The Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association says gas prices have jumped 20 cents per gallon in the past six days.

Nearly 50 Lukoil stations across New Jersey are protesting ‘zone pricing’ for gasoline today by raising prices to $8.99 a gallon.

Organized by the New Jersey Gasoline Convenience Store and Automotive Association, one franchise owner says the protest is in response to frustration over Lukoil charging more in some areas and less in others.

In response to the protest, Lukoil called zone pricing, “a commercially reasonable practice used by gasoline marketers for many years, which is fully compliant with New Jersey statutes governing the sale of motor fuel.”

Keith Kaminskas has owned a Lukoil station along Route 208 in Fair Lawn for eight years. He says the company charges him more for fuel because he has no nearby competition.

“We can get it down the street cheaper. If I could buy a tractor trailer and fill it up down the road and put it in here, I’d be better off than I am today,” Kaminskas said.

Kaminskas says zone pricing has cut margins razor thin.

“A lot of people are turning in their keys because they can’t afford to be in this business any longer,” Kaminskas said.

Kaminskas says if Lukoil were to lower its wholesale prices, he could lower his retail prices to be more competitive.

“Hopefully it works. I’m a longtime customer and hopefully prices will go down,” Tom Minardi said.

While zone pricing has been banned in New York State, it’s legal in New Jersey. There is a bill in the legislature that would make the practice illegal in New Jersey.

The protest is expected to last 24 hours.