Work continues on area’s propane shortagePublished 10:46am Monday, February 24, 2014
Column: Senate Report, by Dan Sparks
Many families and businesses in southern Minnesota are feeling the pain of the state propane shortage and the subsequent increase in propane prices. A number of constituents have contacted my office with questions and concerns over the past several weeks. I would like to give an update on recent events to let folks know where we are with relief efforts.
I have been pleased with the lead Gov. Dayton has taken on this issue. His office has been open to working with myself and my colleagues throughout this process, and he has taken several steps to help with the situation.
Without the Legislature in session, the governor has used his executive powers to set some things in motion. This has led to an increased supply of heating fuels to our region, provided needed financial assistance for families and helped ensure safety.
The Legislative Energy Commission recently received an update on the shortage, along with industry and government efforts to address the problem and the consideration of long-term and short-term issues facing our propane market.
Propane wholesalers are finding new ways to get propane into Minnesota. This includes ramping up shipping of propane by rail and by truck to Minnesota.
Bill Grant from the Department of Commerce also noted that they are looking into all options to increase supply.
In an effort to help with questions and concerns, the State Emergency Operations Center has established a public propane hotline. The hotline operates Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Residents with questions about the current propane situation or those in danger of running out of heating fuel can call 651-297-1304 in the metro area or 1-800-657-3504 in Greater Minnesota.
Commissioner of Commerce Mike Rothman recently announced an increase in low-income heating energy-assistance program from $500 to $1,000 to help low income households with their heating bills. The administration also took steps to expand the program making more households eligible for assistance. Information about applying is available online at: http://mn.gov/commerce/energy/consumers/Heating-Assistance/ or by calling 1-800-657-3710.
The 2014 legislative session is set to convene Tuesday where this conversation will continue to take place at the Capitol. If there is anything that can be done via legislation, I will make sure that it receives a discussion and advocate for swift action. Dialogue on possible language has already begun and we should be discussing that bill in the first couple of weeks.
Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, is the state senator for District 27.