ST. PAUL, MINN. – Having learned from last winter’s propane shortage that significantly increased prices, Governor Dayton and stakeholders convened this week to discuss how to avoid a shortage this year. Sen. Tom Saxhaug (DFL-Grand Rapids) chief authored a bill last session to provide extra funding to the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which helps people pay their heating bills, but he hopes the legislature won’t have to take such extreme measures again this year.
“During the coldest winter in 30 years, thousands of Minnesota families had to worry about their ability to heat their homes. While some of the factors that made this shortage happen were out of our control, it’s important that our state’s leaders encourage the groups that can make a difference,” said Sen. Saxhaug. “I’m glad to see our Governor take the lead on trying to prevent this from becoming an issue again this winter.”
Among the issues discussed at the Governor’s Propane Summit this week were 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 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.
The Governor also mentioned his priority of filling the gap that opened when a major pipeline switched from bringing in propane to bringing in oil shale. According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, when the pipeline made the switch last year, they cut the supply of liquid propane to west-central Minnesota in half.
Following last winter’s shortage, the state legislature enacted a number of safeguards to protect 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 added to 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 alternative sources of energy.
If you have questions for Sen. Saxhaug, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call his office at (651) 296-4136.