Dayton Working on Cold Weather Concerns

MNDOT Plowing Minnesota Roads

Governor Dayton Declares Peacetime State of Emergency to Address Propane Shortage

FOX 9 | January 27, 2014

Propane tanks dot many rural areas of the state, and they serve an important role in keeping homes warm -- but prices are skyrocketing and that is literally leaving some cash-strapped families in the cold.

This winter season has been marked by persistent bouts of brutal, subzero temperatures and budget-busting heating bills. On Monday, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton declared a peacetime state of emergency due to a severe shortage of propane and other home heating fuels on Monday.

One family living in Turtle Lake, Wis. ran out of propane 6 days ago. Since then, the 4 adults, 3 young children and 5 dogs have been wishing cabin fever could keep them warm. Instead, they've been heating their home with space heaters since their propane ran out last week -- but their pipes are frozen.

"I told them -- can't do laundry," Jolynn Steiner told Fox 9 News. "Shower is frozen."

When the family called to resupply, they found out the price had been hiked from $2.40 to $3.85 a gallon. "I said, 'Woo! That's kind of expensive," Rachel Duffy said. "They say, 'Yeah, fuel demands right now.'"

Duffy believes she has fallen victim to price gouging, but that's not the most aggravating part of her story. She's upset that even though they've already paid $578 for their next propane delivery, the 150 gallons they're still waiting for won't even fill their tank. Worse still, the company also wants to charge them an extra $175 for an emergency delivery even though they don't have any money left.

"It's very scary," Jolynn Steiner admitted. "We don't want the kids to get sick. We don't want the baby to get sick and catch pneumonia."

Their neighbors are facing a similar struggle by paying $4.48 a gallon for propane, and the Wisconsin community of Turtle Lake isn't alone. Propane shortages and price spikes are posing a big problem across the country.

Many are wondering why prices have risen so dramatically. To some extent, supply and demand plays a role, but farmers also used a lot of propane in the fall to dry their corn crops. Furthermore, more propane is being exported than ever before, and many experts believe there just isn't enough capacity.

WHAT DOES DAYTON'S ORDER DO?

Prior to issuing the order, the Dayton administration persuaded the federal government and the state of Texas to waive shipping restrictions and ramp up transportation of propane supplies to the state.

Under the new state of emergency, the Minnesota Emergency Operations Plan will be activated in order to coordinate response efforts and to help local governments respond.

Additionally, the adjutant general of Minnesota may order active duty personnel and military equipment as needed to provide emergency assistance and relief services.

On Tuesday, Dayton plans to meet with propane suppliers. Dayton and his administration have also joined members of the state's congressional delegation in a petition asking President Barack Obama for additional emergency help and a halt to U.S. propane exports.

GET HELP WITH HEATING

Minnesota has an energy assistance program to help low-income residents and those on fixed incomes, like seniors, stay warm during the winter months. 

"The most important issue for all Minnesotans during the winter is maintaining a safe and warm place to stay, and I encourage families and individuals who need assistance in heating their home to apply for energy assistance," said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. "This extended cold snap and sky-rocketing propane prices can present Minnesotans with tough choices between putting food on the table or staying warm – and we are here to tell Minnesotans that crisis funds are available to help with their heating needs."

Last year, 147,636 Minnesota households received energy assistance, and $109 million of that was covered by federal funds. The average grant is $500 per household, and houses where income is less than 50 percent of the state's median income -- $43,642 for a family of four -- may qualify on a first-come, first-served basis while funds last.

Applications for the Minnesota Energy Assistance Program can be found online, and additional information can also be found by calling 1-800-657-3710 or 651-539-1882.

In addition to the emergency order, Dayton has also asked Rothman to use his authority to protect Minnesotans from price gouging. Anyone who believes they may have been a victim is encouraged to call 651-539-1500 or 800-657-3602. [Read More]

January 28, 2014  |  News Alerts

Dayton Working on Cold Weather Concerns

Minnesota Public Radio | January 27,2014

With subzero temperatures gripping Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton said today that he’s looking for ways to address the state’s propane shortage.Dayton and DFL members of the state’s congressional delegation already sent a letter to the White House, urging President Obama to take several steps at the federal level to ease the propane crunch. Dayton told reporters Monday he also plans to meet with Minnesota propane suppliers and distributors to get their advice about what else can be done.

Blowing and drifting snow has caused travel hazards in many parts of the state, so Dayton authorized the use of National Guard armories for emergency shelters, as needed.

"We’re doing everything we can, large and small, that can make a difference, and we’ll search for those ideas again today,” Dayton said.

Dayton said a separate meeting is on his schedule with his commerce and public safety commissioners to discuss problems with natural gas, and the recent derailment of an oil train in North Dakota. [Read More]


Small-Biz

Dayton Takes Emergency Steps to Address Propane Shortage

Pioneer Press | January 27, 2014

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton declared a "peacetime state of emergency" on Monday.

The executive order mobilizes state agency resources and the National Guard to respond to the situation.

Dayton said he intends to meet with industry representatives Tuesday to discuss how to improve the supply of propane to Minnesota customers.

Last week, the Commerce Department took steps to increase payments via Minnesota's Energy Assistance Program from $500 to $1,000 for low-income applicants currently heating their homes with propane and heating oil.

In another action related to the extreme cold, Dayton issued an emergency executive order providing assistance for search-and-rescue and for sheltering stranded motorists. He said several sheriffs asked for help from the National Guard to recover and shelter stranded motorists. [Read More]


Governors Declare Propane Emergency as Cold Covers Region

Capitol Chatter | January 27, 2014

Propane costs have nearly doubled in the past year, and in some cases gone higher than that. In Alexandria, Minn., Cenex LP Gas and Petroleum Products was selling propane for $4.89 per gallon.

“That’s the highest it’s ever been,” General Manager Lane Kalina said.

Wind chills as cold as earlier this month, combined with blizzard-force winds, forced 220 Minnesotans to stay in shelters in Nobles, Freeborn, Renville and Cottonwood counties overnight Sunday, the state Public Safety Department reported. Even well into Monday morning, 37 hockey players and parents remained in a Windom recreation center because their team bus would not start.

While Minnesota shelters closed Monday morning, officials said they were prepared to reopen them if needed. Dayton said National Guard armories can be used.

Minnesota’s governor does not plan to call off classes statewide. Dayton said he made the decision to cancel classes earlier this month to help get the word out as schools were just coming off a holiday break.

Students liked his decision, Dayton said. “I received overwhelming support from everybody who can’t vote until the next generation.”

One girl wrote him a note after he called off schools: “Mark, I love you. You are the bomb.com.” [Read More]


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