Hoeven Calls on Energy Secretary to Address High Gas Prices in North Dakota, Upper Midwestern States

Hoeven, Klobuchar Introduce Bill to Mitigate Price Hikes Due to Refinery Shutdowns

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today called on Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to address high gas prices in North Dakota and the Upper Midwest owing to planned refinery shutdowns and the resulting shortages of fuel. Hoeven and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) have also introduced legislation to help reduce the impact of simultaneous refinery shutdowns on gas prices.

In a letter to the energy secretary sent Friday, Hoeven also called on Secretary Moniz to use existing laws to help coordinate planned refinery shutdowns and scheduled maintenance to avoid the prices hikes owing to fuel shortages. Hoeven said energy legislation passed in 2007 gives the secretary explicit authority to “make available to refinery operators information on planned refinery outages to encourage reductions of the quantity of refinery capacity that is out of service at any time.”

“Recent and simultaneous closures of several oil refining facilities in the Midwest region have drastically reduced supply and increased prices for North Dakota consumers,” the senator wrote. “While I understand refineries are prohibited from sharing proprietary information about scheduled closures with other facilities to prevent collusion within the industry, refinery operators, policymakers, and consumers should be informed when multiple outages may cause spikes in gas prices and adverse impacts in the wider economy.”

This week Hoeven also pressed Bob Perciasepe, Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to do all he can from a regulatory perspective to help bring down gas prices.

The Hoeven-Klobuchar Gas Price and Refinery Capacity Relief Act

Also this week, Hoeven and Klobuchar this week introduced legislation that would address planned and unplanned refinery outages, as well as establish a Gasoline Storage Reserve.

Planned Outages

The Hoeven-Klobuchar legislation would require oil refineries to report any scheduled maintenance that would bring any refineries offline to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) one year in advance (or as soon as possible). This would provide the EIA with the information they need to identify potential shortfalls of supply on a national and regional basis.

Unplanned Outages

The DOE needs to know about significant outages as soon as possible in order to encourage other producers to make additional shipments into areas with a shortage. The legislation would require refineries to immediately notify the DOE when they are experiencing unplanned outages in order to help the marketplace respond quickly.

Gasoline Storage Reserve

Currently, North Dakota and Minnesota are more vulnerable to volatile prices swings due to disruptions in the supply of gasoline because of limited storage capacity for refined petroleum products.

The Hoeven-Klobuchar legislation requires the DOE to study our current capacity to store gasoline and other refined petroleum products. It also requires the energy secretary to study the feasibility of increasing the storage of gasoline in regions like the Midwest, and how additional storage capacity would help consumers by preventing price spikes due to supply shortages from natural disasters or refinery disruptions.