Study: Howard County has highest gas prices in the region

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. - A study of area gas prices by the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University found that Howard County has the highest gas prices in the Baltimore region.

Pushing those prices higher, according to the study, is the lack of gas competition in the county.

The 80-page study of a decade of gas pricing trends finds that Howard County gas station owners - and particularly those located in Columbia - are able to charge higher gas prices than elsewhere in the Baltimore region. Other jurisdictions surveyed included Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick County and Harford counties along with Baltimore City.  

The study's release comes at a time that many gas station owners in Howard County are pushing the County Council to consider new zoning regulations that would make it more difficult for competing retailers to build new gas stations in Howard County or to add pumps to existing retail outlets that do not currently sell gasoline. 

According to a news release from a consortium of local companies that financed the study, the new regulations would prohibit any new gas stations from locating within 5 miles of an existing gas station in Howard County.  The Howard County Planning Board is set to hold a public meeting on the proposed regulations at 7 p.m. Thursday at the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.

The study found that barriers created by zoning regulations play a role in creating a lack of competition and driving up gas prices for consumers.

According to the news release, in 2012, the average annual retail price for gas in Howard County was $3.65 per gallon.  Among the five other Baltimore area jurisdictions in the study (excluding Frederick and Montgomery counties), Baltimore City ranked second at $3.58 per gallon.

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