Iowa leaders call for propane relief

High prices putting the pinch on people's budgets
2014-01-27T17:45:00Z 2014-01-27T21:44:07Z Iowa leaders call for propane reliefAlison Sullivan 515-243-7220, alison.sullivan@sourcemedia.net. Muscatine Journal

DES MOINES, Iowa —  Iowa leaders are taking action to find the cause behind the Midwest propane shortage and provide assistance to Iowans effected by the spike in prices.

Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds sent a letter to President Barack Obama Monday asking for help to ease the burden the shortage is placing on Iowans who use propane to heat their homes during the winter.

The letter asked the Department of Transportation to expand the exemption of the “hours-of-service regulations to ease the movement of propane fuel" to states facing shortages. It also requested the Department of Energy to ease regulatory barriers to quicken propane shipments.

Branstad called on Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst last week to expedite shipments to states in need of propane.

Frigid temperatures have led the demand for the fuel to exceed the supply and cause a spike in prices.

A report from the Iowa Department of Agriculture released Monday said prices in retail propane continued to rise since last week, from $4.18 to $4.71.

Iowa Rep. Todd Prichard, D-Charles City, and Rep. Joe Riding, D-Altoona, announced legislation Monday to provide $1 million to an energy assistance program to help Iowans cover the surge in propane costs. The two were joined by propane industry officials and other lawmakers packed into the House Lounge.

Jeff LaPan, senior accounts manager of propane for CHS Inc. a supplier in Minnesota, said the industry has experienced difficulties in transporting the supply, including the closure of an important pipeline and lack of access to rail cars transporting propane. He said if current demand continues, the state could run out of its supply by mid-February.

Iowa's U.S. Senators, Charles Grassley and Tom Harkin, called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the rising propane costs last week.

“Something is not right here, and we need some answers,” Harkin said when asked about the propane situation at a visit to the Iowa statehouse Monday.

— Reporter James Lynch contributed to this story.

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