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Published February 10, 2014, 09:55 AM

Outrage at cost of propane

With the prices of LP gas nearly doubling in the past month, farmers and homeowners throughout our area who use propane as their primary source are upset as their wallets are being raided. I’m outraged, as well.

By: Rod Hamilton, Agweek

With the prices of LP gas nearly doubling in the past month, farmers and homeowners throughout our area who use propane as their primary source are upset as their wallets are being raided. I’m outraged, as well.

We’re dealing with one of the coldest stretches in Minnesota’s history, and all of a sudden the price of propane has gone through the roof. For many, the timing seems like more than a coincidence, and it’s clear the governor and the legislature need to figure out why this has happened.

Propane supplies began to tighten in October, when many farmers were using it to dry their grain. The problem worsened last fall when the owner of a pipeline that travels through Minnesota decided to switch its shipment use from propane to crude oil, resulting in propane supply disruptions as the change began to take place. Now the unexpected and continued frigid weather conditions have led to peak use for those who utilize propane to heat their homes and for livestock systems.

I think Gov. Mark Dayton should call for an immediate investigation to ensure that price gouging is not taking place, and we should hold legislative hearings and hear from the companies and the suppliers directly. We need them to provide some transparency and to help lawmakers develop a long-term plan that ensures this propane shortage never happens again.

The short-term focus will be providing relief to those now struggling to pay their LP gas bills. While the federal government is appropriating more money for low income heating assistance, the Minnesota Legislature should also prioritize a similar proposal.

Minnesota’s Commerce Department has also begun the necessary steps to increase crisis payments from $500 to $1,000 for applicants currently heating their homes with propane and heating oil. A list of local service providers and information on applying for the Minnesota Energy Assistance Program is available by visiting the Energy Assistance section of the commerce department’s website at mn.gov/commerce or by calling 1-800-657-3710.

Editor’s note: Hamilton is the Minnesota State Representative from Mountain Lake.

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