Tablet Local

Emergency declaration allows Texas to help ease propane shortage

Gov. Rick Perry signed an emergency declaration late Wednesday easing licensing restrictions that will allow other states facing a propane shortage to tap into Texas’ abundant supply of the home-heating fuel.

Due to severe cold this season, propane supplies are extremely low in more than 20 states across the Midwest and Northeast.

States as far away as Maine have requested help from the Lone Star State, which produces two-thirds of nation’s propane supply and houses the world’s largest propane storage facility, said Bill Van Hoy, executive director of the Texas Propane Gas Association which sent a letter to Perry last week requesting the emergency declaration.

“Texas has the fuel, but motor carriers from other states could not get supplies from Texas because they were not licensed and certified to enter our state,” Van Hoy said Thursday.

The declaration will help address the shortage by temporarily waiving licensing requirements and rules prohibiting other states from trucking propane from Texas, Van Hoy said.

The Texas Department of Public safety is also waiving limits on hours of service in Texas to fuel carriers providing emergency relief, he said.

Propane is used to heat more than 7 million homes across the United States, he said.

A confluence of events, including extreme winter weather and a sharp increase in propane exports, has led to the shortage. Also reducing the supply was a record fall corn harvest when large quantities of propane were used to dry out crops.

Prices in the Midwest are the highest since at least 1990, according to the Energy Information Administration. The propane supply has fallen from 34 days on Nov. 29 to 24 days on Jan. 10, according to the administration. The supply stood at 42.1 days a year ago.

Some out-of-state suppliers have already sent truckers to Mont Belview near Houston, where propane is stored in an enormous salt cavern, Van Hoy said.

“This won’t just help those states, it will be good for business in Texas,” he said.