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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Dean Urdahl (R)

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Rep. Urdahl looks near and far to ease propane pinch

Thursday, February 6, 2014



ST. PAUL – Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, is advocating a multi-faceted approach to alleviating the propane supply shortage which has brought sticker shock to Minnesotans who rely on the gas to provide heat and more.


In the immediate days and weeks, Urdahl encourages impacted citizens to seek recently increased financial assistance available to propane consumers. A Minnesota Department of Commerce hotline is now available at 1 (800) 657-3504 to provide information. He also was among legislators supporting executive orders Gov. Mark Dayton signed to relax transportation regulations and increase delivery for the short term.


Legislatively, Urdahl said proposals are under consideration to foster long-term stability. Bills could be written during the upcoming session to expand assistance eligibility, ease railroad congestion, provide incentive to reverse a trend of ever-increasing exportation of propane and more.


“It’s all on the table,” Urdahl said. “This is financially crippling for some people and putting their safety at risk. This is not for a lack of propane, per se, it’s about making sure people have access to the gas. I will continue working on ways to stabilize the long-term propane supply. Real solutions will require joint efforts between our state and federal governments.”


Experts indicate a combination of factors have caused the propane shortage. Canadian pipeline work has limited flow to Minnesota, an issue expected to linger with the reversal of a line that runs propane to western Minnesota. Also, a large corn harvest and abnormally wet crops resulted in a large amount of propane being used to run dryers last fall. Then, extended cold in the Midwest this winter and supply disruptions exacerbated the problem.


“Warm weather could provide some relief in coming months, but our vision needs to stretch beyond that,” Urdahl said. “This so-called perfect storm hit us hard and we need to protect ourselves for the long haul.”


Urdahl said a number of constituents have contacted him with concerns over price-gouging as their bills soared to double the recent cost – or more. Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman issued a statement indicating he will “take all necessary steps to ensure that Minnesota consumers are not subject to unlawful propane hikes or market manipulation.” Rothman said his department will review all complaints from consumers and act accordingly.