The propane shortage in Wisconsin did not take long to be addressed.
On Jan. 25, Gov. Scott Walker declared a State of Emergency in response to the propane shortage impacting Wisconsin. The declaration puts all state agencies on alert to be prepared to assist as needed in response to the cold weather snap and propane shortage.
As of Monday morning, here are the measures taken by Gov. Walker to manage the shortage and get the fuel to citizens who rely on propane for heat.
• Directed the Department of Administration’s (DOA) Division of Energy Services to release an additional $7 million in Crisis Benefits to counties and tribes that have households who use propane to heat their homes.
• Instructed the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to move forward with $5 million loan guarantee program. WEDC will provide loan guarantees to banks up to 80 percent of new or expanded lines of credit to propane dealers in Wisconsin.
• Directed the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) to proceed with a $3 million loan guarantee program. WHEDA will provide loan guaranties to banks of 50 percent of a total loan for dealers to purchase propane, but not to exceed $50,000 guarantee amount.
The Governor outlined another series of actions, which include the following.
• Calling on the Federal Trade Commission to review the recent price spike in wholesale propane price to ensure no anti-competitive activity occurred;
• Calling on the Federal Department of Energy to review the impact of propane exports on domestic supply and price;
• Asking other Midwestern states, through the Midwest Governor’s Association, jointly to review current propane delivery infrastructure and work cooperatively to ensure prudent, cost-effective investments are made;
• Forming a Wisconsin propane task force of industry, government and other stakeholders to make recommendations on steps Wisconsin can take to minimize the potential for future shortages.
The Governor also urged state legislators to pass Assembly Bill 596. Included in this bill is a provision that would allow the Public Service Commission (PSC) under certain circumstances, to make it easier for a gas utility to enter into an adjacent service territory to offer natural gas service to new customers.
This would make it easier for some customers to access natural gas, instead of, or in addition to, propane.
What citizens can do
Call the non-emergency number of your local sheriff’s department if you need the location of a local warming shelter or other local resources. As always, call 911 for an emergency.
Check on friends, neighbors and loved ones to ensure everyone has a warm place to stay.
Call toll-free at 1-866-432-8947 for information about where you can purchase propane in your area, or to apply for assistance towards your propane heating bill.
You also can visit www.homeenergyplus.wi.gov about where to apply for heating assistance through the WHEAP program. Your local agency will determine eligibility for heating benefits based upon your household income, size, and the home’s heating costs.
If you are eligible, the WHEAP program will make a payment directly to your fuel supplier towards the cost of your propane. These benefits are available through May 15.
Your local agency also will determine if you are eligible for Crisis Benefits.
If you go to a local warming shelter, turn off the water in your home and drain your pipes to ensure that the pipes do not freeze in your absence.
If you are hesitant to use a shelter because you are afraid to leave a pet behind, call your local warming shelter-human services agency as many warming shelters also offer pet shelter when an individual or family uses the shelter.
Donate to the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund (KWWF) to help those impacted by the crisis. Credit card donations accepted nline at www.kwwf.org/donate or by calling KWWF at 608-333-0809.
Gov. Walker has asked President Barack Obama to establish and lead a propane supply chain working group to coordinate the movement of propane from where it is available to where it is needed in the U.S.
Pleased with the response from the federal government, Walker has taken the follow-up steps of requesting a propane supply chain working group between the federal government, states and the propane industry to work together on developing short- and long-term strategies and the logistics of moving the propane supply through the sates.
The entire Wisconsin Congressional Delegation sent a letter to President Obama urging him to take immediate action to address the propane crisis in Wisconsin.
In their letter the delegation noted “the price of propane in Wisconsin has risen to unprecedented levels of $6 per gallon in some parts of the state, while average rates were $1.50 per gallon at this time last year.”
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and DOA are extending the authorization allowing motor carriers to transport overweight loads of energy resources such as fuel and oil, along with milk commodities.
For DOT information call, 608-516-7285, Kathleen.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) announced last week that his staff would be available for mobile office hours on Feb. 6 and 7 at the locations listed.
These office hours will allow constituents to meet with the senator’s staff. They are not open to the press.
• Feb. 6, 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., Adams County Community Center, Room 103, Adams
• Feb. 6, 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., Marquette County Courthouse, Public Safety Room, 67 West Park Street, Montello
• Feb. 6, 2 to 3 p.m., Waushara County Courthouse, Room 263, 209 South Saint Marie Street, Wautoma
• Feb. 6, 3:45 to 4:45 p.m., Waupaca County Courthouse, Lower Level Room 42, 811 Harding Street, Waupaca
• Feb. 7, 9 to 10 a.m., Shawano County Courthouse, Lower Level Room B, 311 North Main Street, Shawano
• Feb. 7, 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Wausau Area Hmong Mutual Association, 1st Floor Conference Room, 1109 6th Street, Wausau
• Feb. 7, 1 to 2 p.m., Lincoln County Service Center, Room 248, 801 North Sales Street, Merrill
At Cooperative Network (CN), President and CEO Bill Oemichen, last week asked member farm supply managers to request assistance for areas of the state hit hardest by the shortage. These include Burnett, Marinette and Florence Counties.
Additional information on this issue, including consumer tips on saving energy, is available on CN’s website at http://bit.l7/2014CNPropane.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has received reports that an Amberg company is not providing propane to customers with prepaid contracts and is refusing to provide refunds for unfulfilled services.
Contract-holders with these specific delivery or refund issues are asked to file a formal written complaint with DATCP.
To file a complaint with DATCP:
• Visit datcp.wi.gov and fill out an online complaint form, or
• Download a .pdf version of the form from datcp.wi.gov that can be completed manually and mailed in to the agency, or
• Contact the Consumer Information Hotline at 800-422-7128 and request that a blank complaint form be sent to you by mail. Manually complete the form and mail it in to the agency.
• In addition to the completed written complaint form, complainants are asked to provide copies of any contracts, proof of payment documents and any delivery documents they might have.
For more information, contact DATCP’s Consumer Information Hotline at 800-422-7128, email@example.com.