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Midwest propane shortages prompt Congressional letter

USDA Photo by Lance Cheung Grain bin propane tank USDA.jpg
House Agriculture Committee chairman Peterson and bipartisan lawmakers bring awareness to constrained propane supplies.

In an effort to raise awareness regarding the need for a continued supply of propane to Midwest states, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) and a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter Nov. 14 to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Neil Chatterjee on behalf of farmers and rural residents across the Midwest.

The letter aims to ensure that FERC is aware that farmers and grain elevator operators are dealing with propane shortages while trying to finish harvest and prepare grain for storage. This is happening as below normal temperatures have arrived early and residential use of propane is also increasing. The Minnesota Propane Assn. said in an average November, propane marketers in Minnesota use 190 transport loads of propane per day for the state. This year, however, nearly 300 transports have been shipping per day.

In 2014, FERC took extraordinary measures to address catastrophic conditions and propane shortages. This letter intends to remind the commissioners that they have tools to help address the conditions facing our rural communities.

“We hope to avoid a disastrous situation with cold temperatures and snow in the forecast spiking demand for residential deliveries just as farmers are needing to heat poultry and livestock barns and crop farmers are facing one of their most frustrating harvest seasons in years,” wrote the lawmakers in the letter.

The letter noted that farmers are calling congressional offices looking for answers about what can be done. “Those who are lucky enough to have crops to harvest this year are now struggling with drying a wet corn crop. Wet corn put in storage can start to spoil in as little as 3 days. There are also reports that grain elevators are having to stop the delivery of corn from farmer and storing corn on the ground because they’re running short of propane as well,” the letter stated.

Chatterjee did respond on Twitter, saying the agency was aware of farmers' plight.

The letter recognized that trucks are driving to Kansas and Texas to bring back additional propane supplies, and offered appreciation for the efforts taken by several state governors and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to assist companies in this effort.

FMCSA has declared a regional emergency for Iowa, Kansas, Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Several state governors have also issued executive orders to waive hours of service for the delivery of propane due to long wait times at terminals.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds recently signed an emergency proclamation to assist the transportation industry during the state’s ongoing propane shortage. The proclamation waives the oversize and overweight transportation requirements for commercial trucks hauling propane and anhydrous. The emergency proclamation went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16 and expires at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 15, 2019.

This is the second time Reynolds has signed an Emergency Executive Order to assist with the supply challenges resulting from increased seasonal propane demands. On Nov. 1, Gov. Reynolds exempted drivers of commercial motor vehicles delivering propane from the hours of service requirements outlined in Iowa Code. That proclamation runs through 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 30.

The average retail propane price in Iowa is currently $1.38, up $0.14 from last week. The average retail propane price was $1.34 in November 2018 and $1.43 in November 2017.

Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) also sent a letter to FERC to consider its regulatory options to prioritize pipeline shipments of propane to Iowa.


TAGS: Policy
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