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    Senators Urge New Energy Chief to Act on Gas Price Spikes

    Sens. Ron Wyden and Al Franken cite the impact of planned refinery outages.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) this week urged newly appointed U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to take steps to combat gasoline price increases, citing simultaneous maintenance shutdowns of several regional refineries.

    "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 in a letter to Moniz. "These increases have been attributed by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and other analysts to the impact of planned refinery outages…We are writing to you to take action to remedy this situation."

    The senators pointed out that Congress anticipated the problems refinery outages can cause as early as 2007, and subsequently authorized the EIA to collect data and report on their market impact. However, the EIA suspended this analysis in 2011, citing a reduction in funding.

    "Given the importance of this situation to motorists, we urge that you carry out the intent of Congress by restarting the EIA analysis and reporting of planned refinery outages," the senators concluded.

    Moniz has not yet publicly responded to the letter. He was confirmed as Energy Secretary on May 16, replacing Steven Chu.

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