Senators Stabenow, Levin Urge Action to Ease Midwest Propane Shortage

Thursday, January 30, 2014

U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin of Michigan wrote today to President Obama urging action to respond to a propane gas shortage in the Midwest that has affected thousands of Michigan homes and businesses.

Noting that propane prices have more than doubled for some consumers, Stabenow and Levin urged the president to direct his administration to ensure that rising prices are not due to excessive speculation; to extend an emergency declaration that facilitates transportation of propane; to limit exports that may exacerbate U.S. shortages; and to ensure that federal assistance is available to help low-income and senior households with energy bills.

The full text of their letter follows:

January 30, 2014
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

Action is required to deal with the dire propane shortage in the Midwest. Households and businesses in Michigan are experiencing shortages and major price increases due to the low propane supply in the area. The extreme cold weather this winter makes the shortage especially grim for many families, as they face disruptions in the propane supply necessary to heat their homes, farms and businesses. Immediate action is needed.

The Energy Information Administration estimated last week that propane prices reached nearly $2.50 per gallon at Conway, the Midwest hub for propane storage and distribution; this week the price jumped to $4.01 per gallon. We have heard some reports from Michigan that prices are reaching $6.29 per gallon in some communities. We are concerned that the extreme price increases could be due, at least in part, to excessive speculation. We urge you to direct federal agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission, to investigate and stop any predatory actions.

The Department of Transportation has declared an emergency for the Midwest, to suspend certain safety requirements, including hours of service, for motor carriers and drivers involved in any relief efforts. Currently, this emergency action expires on February 11. We ask that the declaration be extended, until the propane shortage is resolved. We ask that you direct any other options, which might be available, to be exercised relative to other modes of transportation, like rail or pipeline, to facilitate propane flow to the Midwest.

We are concerned that propane exports could be exacerbating the current shortage in the United States. We request that you to direct the Commerce Department to take action under the Export Administration Regulations to limit exports in order to protect the domestic economy from the impacts of this shortage.

Finally, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) assists low income and senior households with their energy bills. We hope that all possible avenues of additional funding will be explored to help households with heating their homes through the propane shortage and price spikes.

Thank you for your consideration and attention to this urgent matter.


Debbie Stabenow
Carl Levin