WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) announced their support for actions by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to prioritize propane shipments to alleviate the ongoing shortage in the Midwest. FERC issued an order accepting a proposal by Enterprise TE Products Pipeline Company LLC, providing emergency transportation service of propane to the Midwest region for a 30-day period. According to a 2017 Minnesota House of Representatives study, more than 200,000 households in Minnesota rely on propane as their main source of heat.
“This announcement from FERC is an important step in helping to deliver additional propane and some much-needed relief to the families, farmers, livestock producers, and rural businesses that rely on propane to heat their homes and barns, and dry their crops after a wet harvest,” Klobuchar said. “Minnesotans have enough to worry about with this year’s wet conditions and continuing low temperatures. They shouldn’t have uncertainty about whether they’ll have fuel to heat their homes and operate their businesses.”
“This is welcome news for farmers and ranchers, and for rural communities in Minnesota,” Smith said. “I’m sure the Minnesotans I’ve heard from about this issue are pleased to see this step taken, and it is appropriate for FERC to take action to alleviate the propane issue as the temperatures drop and we approach the holiday season.”
On October 31, 2019, Governor Walz issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency, which lifted regulations on hours of service for motor carriers and drivers to alleviate the strain on farmers, livestock producers, and small businesses in western Minnesota during this fall’s difficult harvest. Wet conditions this fall have damaged crops, prevented harvesting, and created additional demand for propane to dry crops and heat livestock barns.
Following dramatically reduced propane supplies in the winter of 2014 due to frigid temperatures, Klobuchar’s bipartisan legislation the Reliable Home Heating Act was signed into law to better address future propane and heating fuel shortages. Specifically, the bill gave governors new tools and greater flexibility to address emergency heating situations. Under current federal law, the governor of a state can declare a state of emergency due to shortages of heating fuel, which provides a 30-day exemption from federal regulations for operators of commercial motor vehicles. Previously, at the conclusion of these 30 days, the exemptions expired unless extended by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) or otherwise addressed by a presidential disaster declaration. Klobuchar’s legislation gives the governor of a state the authority to extend the state of emergency for two additional 30-day periods, for a total of 90 days without FMCSA action.