Maine’s attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission have blocked a planned acquisition by Irving Oil Terminals that officials said could have led to higher gasoline prices in Maine.

The federal and state agencies announced this week that they will not allow Irving to buy ExxonMobil’s petroleum terminals in South Portland and Bangor, along with the 124-mile pipeline that connects them.

Completion of the purchase, which was announced in November 2009, would have violated merger laws and reduced competition in southern Maine and in the Bangor area, state and federal officials said.

“Promoting competition in an industry where consumer impact is high is critical, particularly in these times of rising fuel and gasoline prices,” Maine Attorney General William J. Schneider said in a written statement. “The people of Maine, particularly the Bangor and Penobscot Bay area, will benefit by keeping the gasoline marketplace open.”

The FTC is closely monitoring deals in the energy market to protect competition, said Richard Feinstein, director of the commission’s bureau of competition. “We expect the relief obtained here to accomplish that goal and protect consumers from higher gas prices.”

Maine’s average gasoline price was $3.86 per gallon Friday, according to AAA. That’s above the national average of $3.81. A year ago, the average national gasoline price was $2.76 per gallon.

Federal and state regulators have been reviewing the Irving expansion since the company announced the deal in 2009.

Irving Oil Terminals is based in Portsmouth, N.H., and is a commercial marketer and distributor of petroleum products throughout New England. Its purchase of ExxonMobil assets would have substantially increased Irving’s market dominance in certain parts of the state, according to the FTC.

ExxonMobil and Irving are two of only three independent terminal operators in the Bangor area and two of four in the South Portland area, officials said. Terminals typically include storage tanks and pumps to fill tanker trucks that deliver gasoline to retail outlets.

The federal and state settlements announced this week are still subject to final FTC and court approvals.

A spokeswoman for Irving Terminals could not be reached for comment. When the company announced the deal in 2009, a spokesman said the expansion would enhance Irving’s ability to remain “a secure and reliable energy supplier in Maine and New England generally.”

Under the settlements, Irving gives up its rights to buy the entire Bangor terminal and pipeline and 50 percent of the South Portland terminal.

Buckeye Partners L.P., a publicly traded partnership that owns and operates refined petroleum pipelines, will take over the purchase deal.

Buckeye will be the sole operator and part owner of the South Portland terminal and will also acquire the ExxonMobil Bangor terminal and the intrastate pipeline connecting the two terminals.

Irving also cannot manage or acquire a controlling interest in the South Portland terminal without prior approval of the agencies. And, officials said, it must notify the FTC and the attorney general before acquiring any additional ownership interests in petroleum product storage or transportation in Maine. 

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

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