The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed legislation by voice vote that provides some relief for those impacted by propane shortages.
The Home Heating Emergency Assistance through Transportation Act – H.R. 4076 – would provide a guaranteed extension of the U.S. Department of Transportation's emergency declarations until May 31, 2014.
The declarations to allow tank truck operators delivering propane and other home heating fuels to drive for longer hours to speed up deliveries to the affected states. Some states have already approved emergency declarations, however, they only last 30 days at a time.
The legislation, says proponent Kristi Noem, R-S.D., will provide the certainty needed for states to better address critical heating fuel transportation and distribution issues.
"The propane shortage has threatened the lives and livelihoods of families across South Dakota and throughout the nation who rely on propane heat," said Rep. Noem. "This winter's bitterly cold temperatures increased demand, but transportation and distribution issues disrupted the supply chain. I'm hopeful this legislation will help to get propane to homes, farms and businesses more quickly."
The bill follows a request from a bipartisan coalition of Midwest lawmakers in February to the Energy and Commerce Committee leadership for a hearing that would examine the propane shortage that struck the region. They also requested a review of the long term outlook of Midwestern supply and potential solutions to the problem.
According to the Energy Information Administration, residential propane prices have been retreating from record-high $4 per gallon levels in February. Current residential price rests at $3.30 on average, which is still higher than the 2012-13 average for March, which was just under $2.40. Wholesale sits at $1.50.
The Senate has yet to consider the bill.