Governor’s Propane Summit Aims at Heading off a Winter Shortage
ST. PAUL, MINN. – Sen. David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm), Governor Dayton and other stakeholders don’t want to see a repeat of last winter’s propane crisis. A perfect storm of factors last year significantly drove up propane costs, which affected thousands of Minnesota families and businesses. On Tuesday, Tomassoni joined other stakeholders at the Governor’s propane summit to discuss the current propane supply and any factors that could impact demand for the heating fuel this winter.
“I think it’s really important to not repeat the problems we dealt with last year, and I’m glad to see the Governor convene this meeting. Our state is still facing a number of the problems that contributed to last year’s shortage that doubled and tripled propane prices, so it was good to hear that industry and stakeholders are actively working together to come up with permanent solutions,” said Sen. Tomassoni.
Among the issues discussed at Tuesday’s summit included putting pressure on the state’s rail system to carefully balance which trains have priority on its tracks, and encouraging consumers to take advantage of the lower summer prices for propane and to fill their tanks now. The Governor pointed out that this was already taking place, as consumers have filled up 20 million gallons of propane more than they had at this time last year. Likewise, regional storage centers have increased storage by about 15 percent from this time a year ago.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, as of Aug. 9, propane supplies in the Midwest were 1.9 million barrels higher than last year, but still 1.6 million barrels below the five-year average.
Following last winter’s shortage – which happened during the coldest winter on record in nearly 30 years – the state legislature enacted a number of safeguards to protect largely rural Minnesotans who use propane fuel to heat their homes. The reforms include requirements for budget payment plans, purchase contracts, clearly posted prices and regulations on fees that can be tacked onto transactions.
The Legislative Energy Commission has also been called upon to conduct a study on how to move propane users to natural gas or other alternatives sources of energy. In addition to reforms the state legislature also allocated $20 million to fund the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps low-income households across the state with their heating bills.