With gas prices near record highs, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency to help prevent price gouging. In a news conference Thursday, Beshear said he hoped the measure would help relieve the burden of rising gas prices on Kentuckians. 

According to the order, no one in Kentucky can sell gas or other motor fuels at a price that is “grossly in excess of the price prior to the declaration of this State of Emergency.” Violating the order could lead to penalties laid out in the existing KRS 367.378 statute. A first offense could result in a $5,000 fine. The Governor encouraged the public to come forward with complaints.

Average gas prices in Kentucky are about 40 cents a gallon higher than a month ago. 

Governor Beshear had written to state Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office asking for advice on declaring a state of emergency. The Attorney General’s office wrote back saying it had received 263 complaints of price gouging since January 1st. 22 of those complaints reported prices of 10% or more above the prevailing price in Kentucky at the time. 

The Attorney General said that the declaration of an emergency would provide “minimal relief,” but Gov. Beshear noted that it would still help Kentuckians.

“I’m willing to do what it takes to provide relief, even if it’s minimal. So today I’m taking this action because I strongly believe that even minimal relief is better than no relief.”

Just a few days ago, the federal Environmental Protection Agency denied Beshear’s request to temporarily waive requirements for reformulated gas. The reformulated gas burns cleaner and lowers the amount of air pollution but It costs 20 to 30 cents more per gallon than conventional gasoline. A possible reclassification from the U.S. EPA prompted by declining ozone pollution in the area could eliminate the requirement.

Earlier this month, Beshear signed an emergency regulation to freeze the gas tax and prevent an increase of two cents per gallon that would have taken effect July 1. Beshear said the move would save Kentuckians an estimated $35.4 million through mid-January of next year. 

Divya is WFPL's Capitol Reporter.