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Our Opinion: Dayton averted propane crisis

Gov. Dayton hasn’t taken the propane shortage lying down. He has worked with other governors, pipeline operators, members of congress and the Obama Administration to keep the supply of propane flowing to Minnesota.

Some examples:

Jan. 23 — Dayton and other Midwestern governors worked with Texas Gov. Rick Perry to waive trucking restrictions in Texas – helping increase the flow of propane to Minnesota and other Midwestern states.

Jan. 23 – The Minnesota Department of Commerce announced that crisis payments for heating assistance from the state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program would increase from $500 to $1,000 for applicants who heat their homes with propane and heating oil.

Jan. 25 – Dayton and Minnesota’s congressional delegation urged the Obama Administration to knock down regulatory barriers and take additional steps to alleviate the propane shortage, and provide relief to families and agriculture producers.

(Obama responded last week, easing regulations to improve the transport of heating fuels into Minnesota).

Jan. 27 – Dayton issued an emergency executive order declaring a Peacetime State of Emergency in Minnesota. That activated the Minnesota Emergency Operations plan, coordinating response efforts across all agencies of state government and helping local governments respond and recover from the emergency. The order also put the National Guard on alert to provide whatever help is necessary to ensure the safety of all Minnesotans.

Jan. 27 – Dayton directed the Minnesota Department of Commerce to use its consumer protection authority to help guard Minnesotans from potential price gouging activities.

Consumers who believe they may have been the victim of price gouging are encouraged to contact the state’s Propane Hotline at (800) 657-3504 in Greater Minnesota or (651) 297-1304 in the Twin Cities.

Jan. 28 – Dayton met with propane industry officials to discuss the propane shortage, explore strategies to bring more propane into Minnesota, and help families who are running dangerously short of heating fuel. Jan. 30 – The State Emergency Operations Center established a public hotline for Minnesotans in danger of running out of heating fuel or with propane questions. Call (800) 657-3504 between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. So far, over 2,700 Minnesotans have called.

Jan. 31 – Dayton contacted the CEOs of two different propane pipelines (Williams and Enterprise) to discuss the Midwest propane shortage, and strategies to increase the supply of heating fuels to provide additional supplies to Minnesota residents, businesses, and farms.

Feb. 4 – Dayton took executive action to expand eligibility for the state’s heating assistance program, making an estimated 120,000 more Minnesota households eligible for assistance from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Dayton didn’t stop there. He announced plans to include $17 million of state funds for the emergency heating program in his supplemental budget, unless the feds act first.

And he waived regulations slowing down truckers hauling propane, gasoline, diesel fuel, ethanol, and biodiesel into Minnesota.

Kudos to the governor for recognizing the crisis early on, and never letting up.