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UPDATE: Governors write to Obama over propane shortage

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UPDATED Tuesday, February 4, 2014 --- 12:30 p.m.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and six other governors are writing to President Obama asking for help in addressing the propane shortage and price increases.

They are asking for the administration to help increase propane supplies through "every means of transport."

They encouraged Obama to consider regulatory waivers aimed at increasing supplies and hoped the Small Business Administration would ease loan requirements to help communities respond to the shortage.

The letter also said they wanted to explore actions to improve supply stability in future years.

The letter dated Tuesday was sent through the Midwest Governor's Association, of which Dayton is chair. The other governors are Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, January 29, 2014 --- 6:15 p.m.

The State Department of Administration says price gouging is a huge concern, especially in times of shortage, but they say they're keeping a close eye on it. Saying wholesale prices have gone up as well, it's not just the retail price.

Some gas distributors are having to back out on contracts. Milton Propane sent a letter to its customers saying they're not honoring contracts for locked in prices, and are only selling at the market rate. They point to a clause in their contract language that says the agreement can by nullified by an "Act of God" So customers will have to pay the higher rate.

Lakes Gas in Reedsburg, however, says they are still honoring contracts. Other companies voice mails said because of the high volume of calls no one was available to talk to me.

Sauk County Emergency Management says the biggest problem with this situation is that propane is not regulated by the government, so no distributors are required to serve customers.

They say complaints have come in from residents left in the cold because companies have said they simply don't have the gas to provide them.

Governor Walker has asked the FTC to closely monitor the shortage to make sure no price gouging is going on.

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UPDATED Wednesday, January 29, 2014 --- 3:27 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker is asking President Obama to help with a propane shortage in Wisconsin.

Walker sent Obama a letter on Wednesday asking his administration to speed up the release of money that helps pay for heating costs for those with low income.

Walker also said he welcomed a review of the impact of propane exports on domestic supply and price and any regulatory barriers that could ease the shipment of propane delivery.

Walker says he also supports the Federal Trade Commission monitoring the spike in wholesale propane to ensure there is no anti-competitive activity.

Walker said Wednesday he plans to speak about the propane issue with Obama when he greets the president Thursday during a stop in the Milwaukee area.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Wednesday, January 29, 2014 --- 2:47 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker says he will talk with President Barack Obama about the state's propane shortage and rising prices when Obama is in the Milwaukee area on Thursday.

Walker also sent the president a letter on Wednesday on the propane issue.

Walker says he will greet Obama when he arrives in Milwaukee, but he will not join him for his tour and speech at the General Electric gas engine facility in Waukesha. Walker says he needs to return to Madison for a meeting of the state jobs agency.

Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke spoke with Obama on the phone Wednesday. Burke says in a Twitter message that she shared concerns of the middle class with Obama during the conversation.

Burke will not be joining Obama at his Wisconsin event.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Monday, January 27, 2014 --- 6:17 p.m.

Getting propane is getting pricey. A shortage is hiking up costs and causing the Governor to declare a state of emergency.

Millions of dollars are going to assist everyone throughout this emergency. Today, Governor Walker announced the plan to make sure both consumers and suppliers make it through this tough time.

We can't blame it all on mother nature, but the brutal winter we've had is no help, landing the state and the rest of the Midwest in a sticky situation.

"Because of the late, wet, fall it took more propane to dry things out before storing it for the winter. On top of that we had a shutdown of a pipeline in November that didn't open until mid December," said Walker.

Demand is high and supply, really low. Causing propane prices to shoot up from $2.20 a gallon just three weeks ago, to more than $6/gallon in some parts of the state.

"We've had people call up and say I'm going to turn off the heat in my garage and the heat in my workshop hoping to help other people, I had one guy call in and tell me that he's no longer going to heat his plumbing shop because he's concerned about other people," said Chris Tewes with the Wisconsin Propane Gas Association.

Governor Walker is asking that everyone work together to conserve propane. He said a big problem now is that smaller distributors cant afford to pay the price up front now that it's become so expensive. He's set aside $8 million to back loans that small businesses might need to purchase the gas up front. And another $8.5 million for low income consumers.

"As prices have gone up and as demand has gone up, that no one is in a position where they cant heat their home because of their financial situations," said Walker.

The Wisconsin Propane Gas Association says these loan backings will really help.

"To the benefit to their suppliers to let our suppliers know that we have some backing and that's not going to be a road block for us," said Tewes.

Walker has already extended hours for drivers to be on the roads with propane and the road weight limits have been adjusted.

If you need help or have questions you can start by calling (866) 432-8947 or 866-HEAT-WIS.

Other state officials are working to ease troubles here as well. An inspector from the State Office of the Commissioner of Railroads said the loan backings and assistance to low income people won't do any good unless there is physically propane in the state. He says he will be contacting the big railroad companies to make sure they're aware of the shortage, he says hopefully they can do something to help us out.

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UPDATED Monday, January 27, 2014 --- 11:53 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker announced Monday the state will help propane dealers secure loans to purchase gas and release more money to help low-income propane users.

Wisconsin and other Midwestern states are grappling with a propane shortage and rising wholesale and retail prices. The governor declared a state of emergency on Saturday that clears the way for calling out the Wisconsin National Guard if needed.

On Monday Walker announced the state Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority would set aside $8 million to guarantee loans propane dealers take out to purchase gas. Walker also announced the state would release another $8.5 million to help low-income consumers pay for propane.

He also urged people to conserve their propane and track their supply closely.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press

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UPDATED Sunday, January 26, 2014 --- 2:21 a.m.

According to a release, Gov. Scott Walker has declared a state of emergency in response to the propane shortage impacting Wisconsin residents.

Walker has directed all state agencies to be on alert and ready to assist as needed.

As many as 250,000 Wisconsin residents rely on propane to heat their homes and businesses, according to the release. A number of factors are to blame for the current shortage, including this winter's unusually cold temperatures and the temporary closure of a major pipeline that delivers propane to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

Propane transport drivers will be allowed to log additional hours to transport more propane and a weigh limit relief order is now in place allowing for more propane to be carried in each trip, according to the release.

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-free1-866-HEATWIS (432-8947) for information about where you can purchase propane in your area, or to apply for assistance towards your propane heating bill.

You can also 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, 2014. Your local agency will also 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 they pipes do not freeze in your absence. If you are hesitant to use a shelter because you are afraid to leave a pet behind, please call your local warming shelter/human services agency as many warming shelters also offer pet shelter when an individual or family utilizes the shelter.
Please donate to the Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund (KWWF) to help those impacted by the crisis. Credit card donations accepted:

Online at www.kwwf.org/donate
By calling KWWF at 608-333-0809

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Posted Thursday, January 23, 2014 --- 1:45 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker says he will be gathering stakeholders on Monday to discuss a shortage of propane heating fuel in Wisconsin.

Walker said Thursday there is no quick fix to the shortage hitting many regions nationwide and sending prices for propane and natural gas to record highs.

Republican state Sen. Dale Schultz on Wednesday asked Walker to use some of the state's surplus revenue to address the problem, but Walker says more money will not have an impact.

Winter storms and bitter cold are contributing to the problem.

According to the Energy Department 5.5 million U.S. households heat with propane, mostly in the Midwest and South.

Copyright 2014: Associated Press


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