This winter, dramatically reduced propane supplies produced a sharp spike in prices for hundreds of thousands of people throughout the Midwest who rely on propane as their main source of heat 

The Senators’ bipartisan legislation will give governors new tools and greater flexibility to address future propane shortages in Minnesota and across the country 

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) today announced that bipartisan legislation she introduced with Senator John Thune (R-SD) to better address future propane and heating fuel shortages has been signed into law. The Senators’ legislation will allow governors greater autonomy when they declare emergencies, without the need for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to declare that a disaster exists beyond the existing 30-day declarations that are available to governors. The legislation will also require the Energy Information Administration to provide early warnings to governors if the inventory of residential heating fuel (propane, natural gas, and home heating oil) falls below the most recent five-year average for more than three consecutive weeks.

“Frigid temperatures and soaring propane costs hit Minnesota hard this winter and put a big strain on families who struggled to stay warm,” said Klobuchar. “This bill will cut red tape to help states quickly address propane shortages in the future, and I’m pleased that this commonsense measure has now been signed into law.”

In late January, the FMCSA extended state emergency orders for 36 states providing regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operators transporting home heating fuels into areas experiencing propane and heating fuel shortages this winter. Commercial carriers were exempted from federal Hours-of-Service regulations to allow for greater delivery of home heating fuels. As a result of related bipartisan legislation that the president signed into law, FMCSA extended the emergency orders for certain impacted states until May 31, 2014, unless a governor felt that such a declaration was no longer needed. Due to widespread shortages, residential propane prices nearly doubled to $4 per gallon in February of this year creating hardships for families and businesses alike.

Under current federal law, the governor of a state can declare a state of emergency due to shortages of home heating fuel, which would provide a 30-day exemption from federal regulations for operators of commercial motor vehicles. At the conclusion of these 30 days, the exemptions will expire unless extended by FMCSA or otherwise addressed by a presidential disaster declaration. This legislation will give the governor of a state the authority to extend the state of emergency for two additional 30-day periods, for a total of 90 days without FMCSA action.