From: State Senator
Throughout the last week, I have received numerous phone calls and emails from residents of the district who are concerned about the recent drastic increase in propane prices. In the last few months, propane supply throughout the U.S. has dropped dramatically and many states are feeling the impact, with the greatest impact on rural areas where propane is used to heat residential homes and where farmers use propane to dry crops and keep livestock warm. Many propane vendors are also concerned about seeing both the East and West Coasts buying their products from Midwestern refineries and wait times at refineries between 8 and 20 hours.
Propane supply has been reduced and prices have been driven up due to a number of different factors. First, increased demand by farmers for drying grain: according to the United States Energy Information Agency, “A late 2013 corn harvest, along with cold, wet weather, resulted in strong demand for propane at distribution terminals in the Upper Midwest.” Second, increased residential demand due to an unseasonably cold winter, coupled with delivery difficulties due to snow storms that have hampered travel. Lastly, the Cochin Pipeline that carries propane from Alberta, Canada through the northern Midwestern states was shut down for 21 days between November and December for the ongoing pipeline reversal project, limiting supply.
I have been asked by many constituents what we can do to help alleviate the supply shortage and drive down propane prices. While there is not a state role in regulating the price of propane, state regulations on the hours of delivery of propane can be waived. In December and again in January, Governor Dayton and Mn/DOT Commissioner Zelle, issued orders loosening regulations on the hours of delivery. The U.S. Department of Transportation has also issued waivers from certain regulations for delivery of propane, in effect until February 11.
More recently, two letters have been sent to urge immediate action to address the propane shortage. The first letter, which I have signed onto, is urging Senators Franken and Klobuchar to help ensure a greater supply of propane for the Midwest and provide relief to families and farmers. The governor has also sent a letter to President Obama to knock down regulatory barriers and take additional steps to alleviate the shortage.
Beginning this week, the Department of Commerce has increased the maximum crisis benefit for Energy Assistance Program households heating with liquid propane and heating oil from $500 to $1,000. This is to help assist households that are confronting extremely low temperatures combined with increased costs and shortages. The Energy Assistance Program (EAP) through the Minnesota Department of Commerce helps pay home heating costs and furnace repairs for income-qualified households. To apply for assistance or view eligibility guidelines, call 1-800-657-3710, or go to the following website: http://mn.gov/commerce/energy/topics/financial/Energy-Assistance-Program.
With the importance and urgency of this situation, I will continue to do all I can to encourage our federal leaders to address these concerns. As always, if you have any questions, concerns or comments, or if I may be helpful in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com or 651-296-5649. It is an honor to serve as your State Senator.