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House passes Rep. Erickson's bill to study propane heating alternatives

St Paul – Today, the House of Representatives passed a bill authored by Rep. Roger Erickson (DFL – Baudette) to study possible solutions to propane issues in Minnesota. The bill, which was included in a larger Energy Policy Bill, would require the Legislative Energy Commission to study the economic and logistical possibility of having current propane and heating oil users use natural gas.

“Last winter was one of the most drastic instances of how a propane shortage can threaten people’s lives,” said Erickson. “Because of the horribly cold winter, folks were using a lot of propane. Because certain sources of propane weren’t available, prices for the remaining propane skyrocketed. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans paid double and triple their normal prices for heating.”

On the first day of the legislative session, the House approved $20 million from the state’s general fund to support the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP is a federally funded program to help low income families afford the high cost of heating their homes during the winter. But due to the rough winter, the funds had run short. The Legislature used one time budget surplus dollars to ensure the LIHEAP program would remain solvent through the winter.

“In the long run, we need change the way families are heating their homes,” said Erickson. “Natural gas is a much more affordable and readily available way to heat our homes. Gathering more information about how we can chance some people over to a new fuel will help us create a much efficient system in the long run.”

The Legislative Energy Commission will be required to submit their report by January 2015. Along with transitioning people away from propane in the long term, the report is also meant to address short term solutions, such as options for improving the existing transportation systems for propane.


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