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Hoeven backs public disclosure requirements for refineries

FARGO -- Public disclosure requirements regarding planned maintenance shutdowns for fuel refineries could help protect consumers from gasoline price spikes, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said Wednesday.

Hoeven supports legislation, introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken of Minnesota, to require refineries to report their maintenance schedules to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Publication of those schedules should help prevent simultaneous plant shutdowns like those that recently sent gas prices soaring above $4 a gallon in the Midwest, including North Dakota and Minnesota, Hoeven said.

"Let's see the information," Hoeven said. "Let's see some transparency. Let's see some more competition."

Also, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency could allow greater flexibility in shifting seasonal fuel blends, which would help prevent shortages and therefore price spikes, Hoeven said.

The legislation also asks the Department of Energy to examine the potential for additional gasoline storage capacity in the Midwest, making the region less vulnerable to fuel shortages.

Two or three new diesel fuel refineries are planned or under construction in North Dakota's booming Oil Patch. Once completed, those plants could be modified and expanded to produce gasoline, Hoeven said.

"That creates the opportunity," he said.

Diesel refineries were a logical first step because North Dakota must import large quantities of diesel, whereas it is a net exporter of gasoline, Hoeven said.