Last Winter’s Shortage Left Rural Midwest Consumers with Sky-High Prices, Limited Supplies
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) have sent a letter to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Earnest Moniz urging the Administration to do more to prevent another propane crisis this year.
The Administration has taken some steps recommended by Baldwin and Franken to avoid a repeat of last year’s propane crisis, including the collection of more data to better determine supply levels, but more can be done to implement a new emergency response system for heating fuel supply shortages.
The Senators write, “We understand that the Department of Energy is in the process of developing a coordinated emergency response plan with the Department of Agriculture, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and Health and Human Services. While we are encouraged that this planning is underway, additional steps are needed to establish a comprehensive response mechanism and we strongly urge you to complete this plan before winter begins. As you continue developing this plan, we request that you:
•Establish clear criteria that would trigger federal emergency response actions during—and prior to—a propane supply crisis, and
•Develop a list of actions that could be taken by each federal department and agency in response to a crisis, and
•Provide guidance and information to state and local governments regarding available federal resources, including distributing the list of actions that each federal department and agency can take.”
In July, Baldwin and Franken joined Senator Rob Portman (R-OR) to introduce the Propane Supply and Security Act, which will prevent shortages by improving propane supply and price information, coordinating responses to shortages, studying the need for regional propane reserves, and helping farmers purchase propane storage tanks. You can read a summary of the Propane Supply and Security Act here.
Last winter, Baldwin led the charge to alleviate the propane shortage. She urged the Administration to investigate the crisis, pressed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to use emergency authority to prioritize propane shipments to the Midwest to provide relief for families and businesses impacted by the shortage, and joined Senator Franken to cosponsor legislation to extend the hours-of-service exemption, making it easier for suppliers to transport propane to Wisconsin. Baldwin also helped Wisconsin families struggling to heat their homes receive much-needed heating assistance. In May, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on which Baldwin and Franken sit, held a hearing to probe the factors that led to the tight propane supplies this past winter and to ensure that steps are taken to prevent similar shortages in the future.