Senate bill targets propane shortages

Three Midwestern senators introduced a bill Thursday aimed at preparing for and mitigating propane shortages like the one that hit their region this past winter.

Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) said their bill would improve propane supply and pricing information, better coordinate shortage responses, study whether propane reserves should be established and help farmers get propane storage tanks.

“This bipartisan bill will help us respond more quickly to future shortages and it will help prevent them in the first place,” Franken said in a statement.

“Last winter’s propane shortage caused a tremendous burden for the Ohioans who rely on propane to heat their homes and Ohio livestock operations,” Portman said. “To be better prepared in the future, we must move quickly to enact this bipartisan legislation to help prevent and better manage shortages.”

The bill follows a hearing the senators led in May, at which lawmakers, Obama administration officials and the private sector focused on data and supply issues in trying to determine what caused the shortage and how it could have been prevented.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Franken agreed at the hearing that better data, especially from the Energy Information Administration, could have predicted the problems that led to the shortage and allowed the government and private sector to prepare for it.