House votes to ease access to home heating oil

The House passed legislation on Tuesday aimed at making it easier for regions of the country hit by a hard, cold winter to access propane and other home heating fuels.

Members passed the Home Heating Emergency Assistance Through Transportation Act, H.R. 4076, in a voice vote. The bill would extend the ability of truckers hauling fuel to drive for longer hours to ensure remote regions have enough fuel.

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Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Act, emergency exemptions can be granted that allow truck drivers to drive for longer hours in order to deliver propane and other home heating fuels to out-of-the-way places.

But supporters of the bill note that these waivers only last 30 days — the current one expires in mid-March — and that more certainty is needed.

The bill creates a longer-term exemption under the law, until May 31, 2014, which supporters say creates that certainty.

"This bipartisan legislation will provide relief for millions of Americans suffering from the current propane and home heating fuel emergency," said Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.). "An exceptionally cold winter has increased demand for propane, which is used for heating approximately 12 million homes in the United States, and for other home heating fuels."

Last week, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the bill was one of several the House would consider this week in response to the rising cost of heating people's homes. Other bills up later in the week are aimed at easing federal regulations on utility and energy companies.

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