New York, Maine state lawmakers haggling over propane bills

Written on: January 26, 2018 by ICM

Propane delivery bill stalls in the NY Legislature
By , NEWS10, Albany, NY
ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The legislation that would allow customers to have their tanks filled by another company in an emergency situation has stalled.
Lawmakers hoped to fast track it having it passed by this week but that’s looking unlikely.
For nearly a month NEWS10 ABC has shared the stories of propane customers whose tanks ran empty while waiting on fuel deliveries. The biggest offender, according to the New York Attorney General’s Office, is Ferrellgas.
The nationwide company making headlines for risky acquisitions that fell flat. The company was forced to make deep cuts by 80 percent in distribution alone.
Customers like LoriAnn Curtin, of Pattersonville, are the collateral damage.
What’s worse most customers tanks are owned by their suppliers and other companies, citing liability concerns, refuse to fill them.
“In this bill, it says another company can fill the tank.”
A bill sponsored by Senator Jim Tedisco and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara passed the assembly, but the details are still being hammered out in the Senate. The biggest issue is liability.
“So there may need to be tweaked as it relates to this particular bill to protect each company the one who is not delivering and the one who is delivering,” Sen. Tedisco(R,C,I, REF-Glenville) said. “God forbid if an accident takes places we’ve got to find the company who made the mistake with the tank and in the delivery process.”
That tweaking is expected to take time, more than customers hoped for.
“Primarily we would like to get it done before the winter ends, but definitely before next year’s winter.”
Tedisco says the last thing he wants to see is a bill that makes it to the governor’s desk only to be vetoed. He says they’re modeling the bill after similar legislation that passed in Maine which dealt specially with liability issues.
Article courtesy: NEWS10, Albany, NY

Bill targets propane delivery problems

By Matt Junker,

AUGUSTA, ME — Several Lakes Region lawmakers are attempting to address the situation that left some area residents scrambling to get propane delivered during a recent stretch of sub-zero temperatures.

A bill introduced by Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, aims to facilitate propane deliveries by another company when a customer’s regular propane supplier is unable to make a delivery.
Current state law stipulates that only the owner of a propane tank – typically the heating company rather than the homeowner – can refill it or authorize someone else to fill it. While companies can enter into agreements to fill each others’ tanks, uncertainty about who would be held liable in the case of an accident is an impediment to those agreements.
Diamond says the bill, LD 1793, seeks to clarify that liability piece in order to encourage companies to enter into filling agreements and “help each other out” in emergency situations.
He said the effort behind the bill is a bipartisan one from several legislators in the region and has included conversations with the heating industry and Governor LePage’s energy office.
Rep. Jess Fay, D-Raymond is the bill’s lead co-sponsor in the House of Representatives and the proposal has bipartisan support from cosponsors Patrick Corey, R-Windham, Mark Bryant, D-Windham, Don Marean, R-Hollis, Amy Volk, R-Scarborough, and Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport.
Fay said in her written testimony to the Judiciary Committee last week that she had heard of several constituents who had issues getting heating fuel over the past several weeks, including elderly and ill individuals.
She said in an interview this week that she isn’t aware of any constituents that are still unable to get propane delivered, but hopes to avoid the situation in the future.
“I am very concerned that if we have another arctic blast some of them could be placed in harm’s way,” said Fay in her testimony. “I hope we can pass this bill to help keep seniors and families in the Lakes Region and the rest of Maine a little bit warmer this winter.”
Corey reported hearing similar concerns in his written testimony.
“During Maine’s recent cold snap, I received panicked calls from constituents, some worried about their pipes freezing or because they had someone sick or elderly they were taking care of at home,” said Corey. “There was a great deal of discussion about putting five gallons of diesel in their oil tanks. Others were busily calling around to different oil companies that they weren’t regular customers of to see if they could get fuel brought to them. Of course, none of these solutions exist for those who use propane.”
The judiciary committee ultimately pressed pause on LD 1793 this week, voting to table the bill during a work session Tuesday. Some members of the committee expressed concerns about the proposal, including that it might shift liability to homeowners in the case of a propane delivery accident or issue.
Jamie Py, president of the Maine Energy Marketers Associations that represents many heating oil and propane companies, told the committee Tuesday that his group generally supports the concept behind LD 1793 but has concerns about liability limitations for the company filling the tanks.
He called the recent struggle to meet some propane delivery demand an “unprecedented situation” and made reference to challenges in the Lakes region.
He said the industry is working to create an agreement that could potentially serve as a model – while hopefully addressing liability concerns and satisfying insurers – for fuel companies looking to cooperate with each other on deliveries.
Py also said his group supports the existing container law that ties the tank to the delivery company, saying that it is “all about safety.”
Diamond said Wednesday that he asked the judiciary committee to table the bill in order to give the industry a few weeks to work on the model agreement.
He was “really encouraged” and said that the industry is “really starting to work with us” on the issue.
Despite seeing the bill tabled, Fay was optimistic that lawmakers and the industry are looking to address the issue. She said having the bill tabled rather than voted “ought not to pass” signaled that “people are still willing to work on this problem.”
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
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