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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Ron Kresha (R)

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Propane Shortage

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dear friends,

The extreme cold weather and a series of events from last summer and fall have resulted in a spike of propane prices and shortage.  First and foremost, if you or someone you know is in an emergency situation because of the propane shortage, please do one of the following:

1. Visit the Division of Energy Resources website at http://mn.gov/commerce/energy, or by calling 1-800-657-3710 or 651-539-1882.

2. Call my office at 651-296-4247 or email me directly at ron.kresha@house.mn

I have included further information on the propane situation assembled by my colleague Rep. Pat Garofalo in case you want to know more about the history of the situation or about what is currently being done to rectify the situation.

Last Fall

A tight propane supply occurred in late October when the timing of the fall grain harvest occurred at the same time across much of the upper Midwest. The supply constraint was exacerbated by the Cochin pipeline reversal. Kinder Morgan, the owner of the pipeline began the process of changing the pipeline from propane supplier from the west moving crude oil distillate suppler from the east. Most of the people affected by the supply shortage last fall were farmers who were drying grain at harvest time. Not anticipating the severity of the 2013-2014 winter, most experts at the time believed the shortage last fall to be a temporary situation.

Current Situation

The short supply and increased prices are now largely affecting people who use propane for home heating and for livestock systems. There may some who may have averted the higher prices, at least for now, if they pre-purchased their propane supply last summer or fall.

There are several factors contributing to the tight supply of propane and the price spike, including:

The large corn harvest, and unusually wet grain last fall resulted in a large amount of propane use for grain drying last fall. An extended period of severe winter weather throughout the upper Midwest. Supply disruptions as work continues on the Cochin Pipeline for its reversal. A second pipeline that supplies Wisconsin terminals has reportedly been down for maintenance as well.According to a national news report, U.S. production of liquid propane has increased by 2.6 billion gallons since 2008. However, this supply is more than offset by U. S. exports increasing by 3.5 billion gallons.

What is currently being done

According to a press release issued by the Minnesota Department of Commerce last week, the Federal government is appropriating more money for low income heating assistance. The Commerce Department has begun to take the necessary steps to increase LIHEAP Crisis payments from $500 to

$1,000 for applicants currently heating their homes with propane and heating oil. The Department believes the crisis payments will be available as early as next week.

A list of local service providers and information on applying for the Minnesota Energy Assistance Program is available by visiting the Energy Assistance section of the Division of Energy Resources website at http://mn.gov/commerce/energy, or by calling 1-800-657-3710 or

651-539-1882. EAP is administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

Other forms of assistance may be available through county social service programs, community-based organizations, and nonprofit agencies.  See the Stay Warm Minnesota webpage for a list of resources.

Additionally, here are some other things that are currently being done to address the situation:

Executive orders have been issued at the federal level, by Governor Dayton, and by MNDOT to lift the hours of service restrictions on truck drivers who are transporting propane. This will help keep supplies moving to dealers, and ultimately, to customers. The federal executive order remains in effect for the duration of the emergency, or February 11, 2014, “whichever is less”.Although prices have spiked, it is not anticipated that propane supplies will completely dry up in any area of the state. Many dealers are only partially filling propane tanks to ensure supplies are  available to all customers. While this may increase the cost of delivery for customers, and spread out customer’s bills in a more affordable manner. CHS and other cooperatives are working to beef up their rail car capacity and track facilities in an effort to replace transportation of supplies that would otherwise have been transported via the Cochin Pipeline.

There are discussions occurring in the Minnesota House regarding legislative action that can be brought forward after the legislative session begins on February 25th. We need to ensure that a smooth supply chain in the absence of the Cochin Pipeline supply for next fall.

Other resources and articles:

Full press release from the MN Department of Commerce:
http://mn.gov/commerce/media/newsdetail.jsp?id=206-112334

Rep. Rod Hamilton letter to Governor Dayton last November:
http://bit.ly/1dLx7L5

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker meeting with stakeholders Monday:
http://www.startribune.com/politics/national/241693911.html

National article carried by the Star Tribune yesterday:
http://www.startribune.com/nation/241574281.html

Lastly, please see the below list of propane conservation ideas that residents can take. This list is provided by the Cooperative network.

Please feel free to contact me with any additional questions or ideas around this very important issue.  You can reach my office by phone at 651-296-4247 – or you can email me at ron.kresha@house.mn

 
Ron Kresha
State Representative - District 9B
329 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
 
 
TIPS FROM COOPERATIVE NETWORK:

Modest Conservation Measures Can Reduce Your Propane Bill

Due to much colder-than-average temperatures combined with high propane demand last fall, propane wholesale and retail prices continue to reach record-high prices. Unfortunately, costs are likely to remain high this season with considerable demand in the Upper Midwest and with propane suppliers traveling much farther for their inventory.

Cooperative propane suppliers are taking proactive measures to keep their customer commitments throughout this challenging winter. You can lessen the impact of higher propane costs by making modest adjustments and adding cost-effective improvements to your home.

Here are some ways you can conserve propane use and lower your energy bill:

  • Make reasonable thermostat adjustments and consider purchasing a programmable thermostat to adjust heat levels downward when no one’s home.
  • Wrap propane water heaters with an insulating jacket, being careful not to cover the thermostat, the water heater's top, bottom, or burner compartment. Insulate the first six feet of the heater’s hot and cold water pipes.
  • Increase the efficiency of a hot water heater by draining about a quart of water from the bottom drain valve every three months to remove accumulated sediments.
  • Replace dirty propane furnace filters.
  • Consider using weather stripping around leaky windows and doors. Use inexpensive plastic window sheeting to seal drafty windows.
  • Make sure heat vents, registers, and radiators are free of dust or other obstructions.
  • Close window coverings in the evening and open south-facing window coverings during the day.
  • Use less hot water or lower the water heater thermostat to reduce propane usage.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, turning a water heater down from 120° F to 115° F can reduce hot water-related propane consumption by as much as 10 percent.

Find more energy-saving tips in this U.S. Department of Energy brochure:

http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/06/f2/energy_savers.pdf.