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Governor Dayton Takes Action to Address Propane Shortage

1/30/2014 10:14:43 AM


Keeping homes heated at safe levels during the winter is extremely important - and Governor Dayton is working to help assist families from making tough choices about whether to heat their homes or buy food and medication.

Propane Shortage Hotline - Minnesota residents with questions about the current propane situation or who are 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. The hotline is staffed with experts from the Minnesota Department of Commerce who can provide information about Energy Assistance Programs, connect callers with resources in their home county, and provide other information.

Emergency Executive Order - On Monday of this week, Governor Dayton issued Emergency Executive Order 14-02, declaring a Peacetime State of Emergency in Minnesota in response to a severe shortage of propane and home heating fuels statewide. The Governor has called an emergency meeting of the state's Executive Council on Friday to consider extending that state of emergency for up to 30 days.

Protecting Consumers from Price Gouging - The Governor has also directed the Commissioner of Commerce to use his consumer protection authority to help guard Minnesotans from potential price gouging activities. On Wednesday, January 29, Commissioner Mike Rothman sent a letter to the propane industry concerning skyrocketing prices. It stated that he will take all necessary steps to protect consumers from potential price gouging and unlawful market manipulation. Consumers who believe they may have been the victim of price gouging are encouraged to contact the Minnesota Department of Commerce's Consumer Help Line at (651) 539-1500 or toll-free at (800) 657-3602.

Additional Financial Assistance for Consumers - Consumers who need financial assistance to pay their heating bills may also qualify for help through the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The Minnesota Department of Commerce recently announced that LIHEAP crisis payments would increase from $500 to $1,000 for applicants who heat their homes with propane and heating oil. Qualifying families must apply for assistance at the local service provider in their area; Minnesota has 32 local service providers. A list of local service providers and information on applying for assistance is available on the Minnesota Department of Commerce website or by calling 1-800-657-3710.

Working to Increase Propane Supplies - This week, Governor Dayton met with propane industry officials to identify immediate steps that can be taken to help resolve the propane supply and price issues. The meeting included Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson, Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, and state legislators. The Governor also joined Minnesota's Congressional Delegation in petitioning President Obama to knock down regulatory barriers, take additional steps to alleviate the shortage, and provide expanded relief to families and agriculture producers.

Other National and Federal Measures - The American Railway Association has asked its 175 members to prioritize propane delivery by making cars available and dropping propane shipments at necessary locations. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Transportation has established a regional emergency declaration suspending the regulatory provisions pertaining to hours of service for drivers of commercial motor vehicles transporting propane to affected Midwestern states.

What You Can Do

People who use propane to heat their homes can take several steps at this time:

  • Conserve energy as much as possible. Turn down thermostats and be aware of your propane use
  • Check in on your family members, neighbors and friends. Call 9-1-1 only in a crisis
  • State Hotline and Department of Commerce online resources
  • 1-800-657-3504 in greater Minnesota
  • 651-297-1304 in the metro area
  • Department of Commerce Energy Assistance section

Use Alternative Heat Sources Safely

People often turn to alternative heat sources to stay warm when the temperature plummets. The State Fire Marshal (SFM) reminds residents to use caution when using alternative heating sources.

Types of alternative heating sources often seen include:

  • Portable electric heater
  • Liquid-fueled heaters:
  • Kerosene
  • Waste oil
  • Gas-burning heaters - Propane is most common
  • Solid-fuel heating:
  • Wood-burning
  • Pellet-burning
  • Any heating appliance with an open flame needs to be vented to the outside because the combustion process of burning fuel uses oxygen and also gives off carbon monoxide - a deadly combination inside of a home.

Other tips when using alternative heat sources:

  • Keep anything flammable -- including pets and people -- at least three feet away from heating equipment.
  • Make sure portable space heaters have an automatic shut-off.
  • Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Space heaters need constant watching. Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep. Never place a space heater close to any sleeping person.
  • Make sure all cords on electric heaters are in good shape and checked periodically for any frays or breaks in the insulation surrounding the wires.
  • Check the cord and outlet occasionally for overheating; if it feels hot, discontinue use.
  • Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes.
  • Use a heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters will have the most up to date safety features; older space heaters may not meet the newer safety standards.
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