ST. PAUL, Minn. – The following is a propane shortage update from the State Emergency Operations Center.
Governor Mark Dayton took executive action to expand the state’s heating assistance program. That action was immediately implemented by the state’s Commissioner of Commerce.
- Eligibility for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is expanded from 50 percent to 60 percent of the State’s Median Income.
- The increased assistance helps more Minnesotans gain access to financial assistance for the purchase of propane and other heating fuels.
- Late last week the Department of Commerce increased LIHEAP crisis payments from $500 to $1,000. Money is still available for those who qualify.
Governor Dayton’s news release
The State Emergency Operations Center public hotline fielded almost 650 calls on Monday and more than 240 by midday Tuesday. This brings the total number of calls to more than 1,900 since opening late last week. The higher call volume resulted in State Emergency Operations Center officials adding more phone lines today.
- Minnesotans in crisis, including an immediate need for housing due to a lack of heating fuel, should call 911.
- All other propane related calls should be directed to the State Emergency Operations Center hotline (metro) 651-297-1304 or (greater Minnesota) 1-800-657-3504.
- The majority of callers to the state hotline are seeking information about qualifying for LIHEAP and raising concerns about their propane supply
- The hotline operates daily between 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Farmers with Excess Propane from Fall Harvest
Governor Mark Dayton, Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson, and the Minnesota Propane Association are urging Minnesota farmers with surplus propane inventory to consider selling it back to suppliers.
- The move is another step in addressing the shortage of propane affecting Minnesota farmers and homeowners due to the cold winter weather.
- Farmers wanting to help are in contact with propane suppliers and members of the commercial grain industry.
- Some pumping of on-farm storage tanks has already begun.
- Minnesota Department of Agriculture news release
State Emergency Operations Center
- The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) continues to be partially activated.
- The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Homeland Security and Emergency Management division (HSEM) is coordinating efforts of state agencies.
- HSEM is in contact with state, local and voluntary partners to coordinate any potential resource requests. There have been no such requests from local authorities at this time.
- An estimated 250,000 Minnesota homes use propane.
- On Monday, January 27, Governor Dayton issued Peacetime State of Emergency in Minnesota in response to a severe shortage of propane and other home heating fuel supplies statewide. Click here to read Governor Dayton’s Executive Order.
- Minnesota consumers using propane have seen an increase in their heating bills over the past few months. At the beginning of October the average price of propane was $1.67/gallon. Minnesota consumers have reported prices as high as $6.67/gallon. The average price is $4.67/gallon.
- The propane industry attributes the rising prices to a “perfect storm.”
- An extremely cold and rainy autumn which extended far south and impacted farmers’ drying season.
- The winter months have been extremely cold – impacting the supply.
- The propane industry has reported the tight supply will most likely last throughout the home heating season resulting in higher than average cost per gallon.
What consumers and Minnesota residents can do
People who use propane to heat their homes can take several steps at this time.
- Conserve energy as much as possible. Turn down thermostats and be aware of your propane use.
- Check in on your family members, neighbors and friends. Call 9-1-1 only in a crisis.
- State Hotline and Department of Commerce online resources
- 1-800-657-3504 in greater Minnesota
- 651-297-1304 in the metro area
- Department of Commerce Energy Assistance section
Use Alternative Heat Sources Safely
People often turn to alternative heat sources to stay warm when the temperature plummets or, in this case, if propane is in short supply. The State Fire Marshal (SFM) reminds residents to use caution when using alternative heating sources.
Types of alternative heating sources include:
- Portable electric heaters
- Liquid-fueled heaters
- Gas-burning heaters(propane is most common)
- Solid-fuel heating
Any heating appliance with an open flame needs to be vented to the outside because the combustion process of burning fuel uses oxygen and also gives off carbon monoxide — a deadly combination inside a home.
Other tips when using alternative heat sources:
- Keep anything flammable -- including pets and people -- at least three feet away from heating equipment.
- Make sure portable space heaters have an automatic shut-off.
- Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
- Space heaters need constant watching. Never leave a space heater on when going to sleep. Never place a space heater close to any sleeping person.
- Make sure all cords on electric heaters are in good shape and checked periodically for any frays or breaks in the insulation surrounding the wires.
- Check the cord and outlet occasionally for overheating; if it feels hot, discontinue use.
- Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes.
- Use a heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters will have the most up to date safety features; older space heaters may not meet the newer safety standards.
- Home heating safety fact sheet available online.
Closing Your Home in Cold Weather
The most common, and extensive, damage to unheated homes is caused by frozen water pipes. There is no way to be certain pipes won’t freeze, but in general, when your home is without heat for more than a day, you should:
- Turn off the water supply where it comes into the home from the street or well. The turnoff is usually in the basement or utility room. Consult your water company if you are not sure where the valve is located. Well-water pumps should be turned off.
- Open all the faucets, including shower and tub faucets, to drain all the water out of the pipes. The water will drain slowly out of the lowest-level faucets in the basement near a laundry, or into the bathtub in a house with no basement. If possible, use an air compressor or cans of compressed air to force the water out of pipes.
- Remove the hoses from your washing machine and open these faucets, too.
- Flush toilets at least twice to drain water out of them. Remove as much water as possible from the toilet bowl and the water tank.
- Pour recreational vehicle (RV) anti-freeze into all areas that have water left in them including toilet bowls, toilet water tanks, all the sink drains, floor drains, laundry-box drains, etc.
- Call a professional (your gas company) to turn off the gas valve to your hot water tank.
- Closing your home fact sheet available online.