Gov. initiates disaster and energy emergency

Heating help on the way

Jason Liegois 563-262-0525 Jason.Liegois@muscatinejournal.com | Posted: Friday, January 31, 2014 9:30 pm

DURANT, Iowa — As Gov. Terry Branstad stepped in Friday to help state residents get through a propane shortage, one local propane distributor said it's a situation he's not encountered in 25 years of working in Iowa.

"You never know what tomorrow will bring," said Stan Price, co-owner of Price Oil Co. in Durant. "I've never seen it like this before."

On Friday, Branstad declared a proclamation of disaster and energy emergency due to the record high demand for propane throughout Iowa and the upper Midwest.

Propane, which is often used by rural Iowans to heat their businesses and homes, is in short supply throughout the state and region. Severely cold weather and a lack of stored propane have been blamed for the shortages.

The emergency proclamation activates the disaster response and recovery aspect of the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department’s Iowa Emergency Response Plan.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Human and Health Services (HHS) on Thursday released a second Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) appropriation of $7.42 million to the state government to help Iowa families heat their homes. The money came after Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds wrote President Barack Obama expressing their concern with the propane shortage in Iowa and asking for his help.

“We appreciate the collaboration of the federal government, Midwest governors, and Texas officials on trying to resolve the propane shortage here in the Midwest,” Branstad said Friday. “We have had productive conversations with the U.S. Secretary of Energy, U.S. Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, other governors, members of the propane industry and Iowans to do everything possible to resolve this propane issue.”

“We continue to urge the federal government to reduce the regulatory burden so propane can be transported to the Midwest states,” Reynolds said Friday. “We have driven collaboration across state lines from Texas to Washington, D.C. to make sure Iowans have the propane they need to heat their homes, businesses are able to fuel their operations and livestock producers can warm their animals.”

Price said that to ensure that all of his customers can receive propane during a time when the state has seen prices more than double since last year, he's limiting individual sales to 200 gallons to make sure all of his customers can receive some fuel. He's also checking the extended weather report frequently and hoping for better weather.

"I think, like anything, it is going day be day," Price said,

Additionally, Iowa has set up a Propane Shortage and Heating Assistance website at www.governor.iowa.gov/propane which provides information on LIHEAP, reductions in regulatory burdens to propane transport, energy- and cost-saving tips, and other resources. It also contains important safety information for those using space heaters and other heat sources.