Propane shortage prompts Governor Walker to declare State of Emergency

Country Visions Cooperative propane tanks, Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)
Country Visions Cooperative propane tanks, Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)
MADISON - Governor Scott Walker has declared a State of Emergency in response to the propane shortage that is impacting Wisconsin in advance of the extremely dangerous temperatures expected to move across the state in the week ahead.

The declaration directs all state agencies to be on alert and to assist as needed.

"The health and safety of our citizens is our number one priority, and this declaration gives us the necessary resources to protect the residents of Wisconsin," Governor Walker said in a news release. "Since last fall, we have taken action to help alleviate the impact the propane shortage is having on our state. I will do everything I can within my power to help our friends and loved ones relying on propane to heat their homes or businesses during this challenging situation."

The supply shortage in the upper Midwest has caused delivery delays and reduced delivery amounts for propane customers in Wisconsin, as well as all Midwestern states. The propane shortage has been caused by cold winter temperatures, the temporary closure of a major pipeline supplying propane to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, and a wet fall increased propane demand for grain drying.

Governor Walker says his administration has taken numerous steps to help alleviate the effects the shortage is having on the 250,000 residents who use propane to heat their home or business.

Friday, he directed the Department of Administration's Division of Energy Services to release $1.5 million in additional Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Crisis Benefit dollars to the 49 counties/tribes that have a high percentage of propane households.

The Department of Administration's Division of Energy Services has contacted approximately 23,000 low-income propane customers recommending that they contact their propane vendor when their tank reaches 30% full to ensure they continue to have heating fuel and provided information on assistance available through the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP).

The Division of Energy Services issued information to all of the local/partner contacts for WHEAP that outlines the benefits available to customers, including the availability of Crisis Benefit dollars to pay for lodging or temporary shelters.

Wisconsin Emergency Management has contacted local emergency management directors to monitor warming sites and shelter availability.

The Keep Wisconsin Warm Fund (KWWF) has agreed to temporarily allow an increase in its income limit for propane households from 60% of State Median Income (SMI) to 80% SMI, and will allow propane households to potentially receive an increased maximum benefit of $600. It has also temporarily adjusted its policy to allow propane households the ability to potentially receive two benefit payments in a year.