SANTA MONICA ( — Representatives with Consumer Watchdog say California drivers spent $1 billion more on gasoline in March than the rest of the nation.

Although Thursday marked the 35th consecutive day of gas price drops in Los Angeles and Orange counties, the Southland experienced 34 consecutive days of increases prior.

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According to a report, Californians paid $550 million more for gasoline than the rest of the country in February, when prices soared to among the highest in the nation.

State energy officials said the reason for that was because two refineries that make up 17 percent of the state’s crude oil processing capacity remained offline after the ExxonMobil refinery plant explosion and labor dispute.

Gas prices surged as much as 25 cents a gallon after the explosion at the refinery in Torrance, where the state receives about 10 percent of its gasoline supply. At that time, Tesoro’s oil refinery in Martinez, Calif., also wasn’t producing oil due to labor unrest.

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At the end of February, Chapman University economics professor Raymond Sfeir gave four reasons why prices were so high in the state and why they would continue to rise.

The reasons included: 10 percent higher crude prices, the ExxonMobil refinery explosion, a more expensive summer blend of gasoline and California’s cap-and-trade program.

That program was launched three years ago to reduce emissions and hasn’t affected wholesalers until 2015.

Consumer Watchdog experts will discuss their findings at an 11 a.m. meeting in Santa Monica.

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