Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which oversees the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), today sent a letter to the FMCSA requesting the agency issue an Emergency Declaration for the Western Service Center due to propane shortages, which have been magnified as a result of the extreme cold weather conditions in our region and other portions of the United States. The FMCSA declaration would provide relief from existing Hours of Service limits for drivers transporting propane throughout the Western region while still requiring drivers to be fit to drive and operate safely. This would build on the Hours of Service exemption that Governor Daugaard issued earlier this month that applied only within South Dakota. Similar declarations have been made by FMCSA for the Southern, Eastern, and Midwestern Service Centers which provide interstate flexibility regarding the movement of propane and home heating fuel.
“Regional supply disruptions, high demand from a wet corn harvest, and the extreme cold temperatures this winter have strained propane and home heating oil supplies throughout the region,” said Thune. “The brutally cold temperatures in South Dakota, and across the region, this winter are a challenge for families and businesses, and a tight propane market only increases the dangerous conditions residents are facing. I will continue working with all relevant federal agencies to address this ongoing situation.”
The full text of Thune’s letter appears below:
January 24, 2014
Ms. Anne S. Ferro
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, Southeast
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Administrator Ferro:
I write in support of the National Propane Gas Association’s request for you to declare a state of emergency and grant regional exemptions from Hours of Service (HOS) regulations for the Western Service Center. Your support for regional exemptions in the Midwest, Eastern, and Southern Service Centers have provided relief to these areas, however many of the states in the Western Service Center, including my home state of South Dakota, are still experiencing similar propane supply constraints and disruptions.
Due to the high demand for propane stemming from a wet corn harvest, the extreme cold temperatures this winter, and regional supply disruptions, propane prices have increased to record highs. This has resulted in distributors facing challenges securing supplies for residents of South Dakota and in some cases even rationing supplies. These conditions led South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard to declare a state of emergency on January 8, 2013, to provide intrastate HOS relief.
It is now time for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to act and provide more expansive relief to South Dakotans and others in the Western Service Center. In doing so, it is important that the FMCSA extend the HOS service relief to Texas, which is home to the world’s largest underground propane storage facility. This action by FMCSA, would again compliment an action taken earlier this week by Texas’ Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, which waived certain licensing, permitting, and certification requirements for petroleum gas trucks and operators.
I thank you for your consideration of my request, and look forward to your assistance in this pressing matter for a growing number of individuals and businesses.