Democratic News

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Al Franken, D-Minn., pressed the nation's top energy official to act quickly to address recent spikes in gasoline prices in the Midwest, West Coast, and across the country, in a letter sent yesterday.

Wyden, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Franken, chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy, wrote to newly confirmed U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, urging the Department of Energy (DOE) to take steps to combat gasoline price increases, specifically, preventing the simultaneous maintenance shutdowns of several regional refineries. Recent record price spikes in the Midwest, including Minnesota, have been attributed to routine refinery shutdowns, forcing drivers to pay more just ahead of the summer driving season.

Wyden and Franken urged Moniz to renew DOE’s obligation to report on the impact of planned refinery shutdowns, which is required under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. DOE stopped publishing the reports and collecting data from refineries in 2011. The reports, produced by DOE’s Energy Information Administration, were intended to help oil companies avoid shutting down multiple refineries in the same region of the country at the same time.

“We write to express our concerns over the recent spikes in gasoline prices, most recently in the Midwestern region of the country, and earlier this year on the West Coast,” the senators wrote. “These increases have been attributed by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and other analysts to the impact of planned refinery outages in these regions and are causing motorists in these regions to pay some of the highest gas prices in the nation.”

“Given the importance of this situation to motorists, we urge that you carry out the intent of Congress by re-starting the EIA analysis and reporting of planned refinery outages,” the senators also wrote.

The full letter is below.