The new Chukchansi Crossing Fuel Station & Travel Center has opened in Coarsegold, continuing a trend of tribal gas stations built in the Valley.
Written by Donald A. Promnitz
With prices going up at the pump after last year’s gas tax hike, Central Valley tribes are opening fueling stations to meet the demand for a less-expensive fill up. In the course of a week, two new stations have opened up in Madera and Tulare counties.
A couple of weeks ago, the Chukchansi Crossing Fuel Station & Travel Center in Coarsegold opened after breaking ground in January 2017. The station features 18 pumps, two pumps in the back that will host motor homes and trucks, two electric charging stations and a smoke shop. There are further plans to install a car wash, a Peet’s Coffee stand, and a burger joint in the near future.
Jan. 12 came the opening of Yokut Gas, a Lemoore station run by the Tachi-Yokut tribe. Yokut Gas includes 16 gas and diesel pumps, two racing fuel pumps and two electric charging stations. There is also a 3,000 square-foot convenience store and plans to add beer and wine sales.
The Tule River Tribe is currently running another site, Eagle Feather Trading Post in Porterville. Gas at this location is currently $2.89 per gallon compared to an average price of $3.18 in the state. Eagle Feather also features tobacco products unavailable outside of reservations. The Tule River Tribe also bought a second location in Avenal, but it is not on reservation land.
J.J. Mancini, president of the petroleum wholesale company Desert Fuels in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said he has seen a significant rise in the demand for gasoline sales on reservation land in the last 15 to 18 years. This is because tax laws are different for reservations.
“If you see a tribe as their own sovereign nation—which they are—they fall under federal government jurisdiction and generally not under state government jurisdiction,” Mancini said. “It varies state-by-state. Some tribes have reached a pact with the state so that the fuel taxes just pass through, or even tobacco taxes pass through.”
Mancini said the result is cheaper prices and a better bargain for the customers.
“All the tribe is trying to do is gain a price advantage, so that they get the customers,” Mancini said. “If they get the customers, then just like Costco or Sam’s Club is, they’re bringing people into their other businesses, whether it’s liquor sales, convenience stores, casinos, etc. and they’re using fuel as a draw… to bring those customers in.”
However, there is no guarantee that reservation fuel will be the cheapest in town. In Porterville, there are at least two gas stations that are cheaper than Eagle Feather according to fuel price database gasbuddy.com. In Coarsegold, Chukchansi Crossing’s low prices are 10 cents cheaper than Coarsegold Self Service, with the cost of regular unleaded going at $2.59 per gallon.
“We focus on the volume instead of the margin,” said Amar Singh, the manager at Coarsegold Self Service. “And we’re trying to help the town over here.”
Still, as long as reservations are able to keep prices down, Mancini said it’s likely this trend will continue.
“I think that it would be a no brainer for tribes to do that,” Mancini said. “If they can sell a similar, or like product at a significant discount—as far as a business perspective—is a business person’s dream to sell the exact same product at a significant discount.”