Traverse City Record-Eagle


January 31, 2014

Officials working to ease propane shortage

RAPID RIVER (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder said Thursday he will continue exempting motor carriers and drivers hauling propane from hours-of-service regulations to help ease a shortage of the heating fuel brought on by heavy demand during an abnormally cold winter.

Michigan is among more than 30 states that have declared propane energy emergencies as supplies hit their lowest level ever during the second week of January.

“The health and safety of our residents is most important, and I’ve directed relevant agencies to work with those who have been affected by the shortage and offer assistance and available resources until propane levels are restored,” Snyder said.

State officials said during a conference call the shortage is particularly acute in northern Michigan. Propane inventories in the Upper Peninsula are 46 percent below last year’s levels and are expected to remain tight, the governor’s office said, although the situation there improved slightly this week as a facility in Rapid River went back online after a new pump was installed.

Problems that created the shortfall include heavy demand caused by the cold weather and a late harvest that required propane for drying grain, as well as transportation issues such as icy roads, heavy snowfall, rail line problems and pipeline maintenance.

People needing help paying heating bills can apply for emergency relief with the state Department of Human Services. By dialing 211, they can be directed to the nearest office location providing Michigan Energy Assistance Program aid, spokesman Dave Akerly said. Officials said there had been no reports of people running out of fuel, despite the low supplies.

Propane costs have spiked during the shortage, averaging $3.64 a gallon — up from $2.04 a year ago, said Steve Arwood, director of the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Rates in some places have reached $5.60 per gallon and there have been anecdotal reports of prices exceeding $6, he said.

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