Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken today introduced legislation to help prevent spikes in gas prices. After the closure of several oil refineries in the Midwest region for maintenance over the last few weeks, gas prices have surged to over $4 a gallon in Minnesota. The senators’ legislation would require refineries to report their maintenance schedule to the Department of Energy (DoE) to prevent simultaneous closures and help avert future shortages.
“As we head into one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, Minnesota’s record high gas prices will have a real impact on families and businesses across our state,” Klobuchar said.“Scheduled maintenance at refineries should not be allowed to cause such major disruptions in supply. This legislation would help refineries and the Department of Energy coordinate the timing of maintenance to stop preventable shortages before they start.”
“This recent spike in gas prices hurt families and businesses in Minnesota, and I’m committed to doing everything I can to make sure it doesn’t happen again,”Franken said. “Our legislation would help prevent gas prices from skyrocketing when refineries have to shut down by helping ensure that we avoid simultaneous refinery outages so our supply remains intact. It’s a commonsense fix that will help protect Minnesotans’ wallets.”
The legislation would require refineries to report to the Department their schedule for maintenance that would bring any refineries off line. The bill would also require refineries to immediately tell the Department when they are experiencing unplanned outages. Finally, the bill asks the Secretary of Energy to look at the potential for additional fuel storage in the region to address the low storage capacity that makes the region especially vulnerable to shortages.
Last week, Klobuchar sent a letter to the Department of Energy urging the Department to thoroughly examine the timing of maintenance operations at the refineries. Klobuchar has also spoken to the oil companies that own the closed refineries and has urged them to reopen the refineries as soon as possible and help bolster fuel supplies to provide relief to Minnesota consumers.
Sen. Franken has been pushing the DoE to address this issue since the gas price spike hit Minnesota. Sen. Franken, Chair of the Energy Subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, sent a letter with the committee’s Chair, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), to U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz urging him to take steps to prevent this kind of gas spike in the future and renew DoE’s obligation to report on the impact of multiple refineries at once. In addition to the letter he sent with Senate Energy Committee Chair Wyden to Energy Secretary Moniz, Sen. Franken also pressed a top DoE official about the very issue the legislation is seeking to address in a Senate energy forum earlier this week.