Pipeline Regulators Move To Ease Propane Distribution Issue

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A propane shortage in the Midwest and Northeast has prompted federal regulators to order a pipeline company to stop shipping one product and switch to propane. A cold winter, combined with a late harvest season, prompted the shortage initially. The propane industry has been scrambling since then to get gas to customers who need it.


and we've been hearing in recent weeks about a propane shortage, which is really more about distribution. Companies are having trouble transporting their gas from where it's stored to where it's needed. Now the agency that regulates pipelines is taking an unprecedented step to try to fix that problem.

NPR's Jeff Brady reports.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Farmers used a lot of propane for a late harvest last fall, then a very cold winter set in. Companies have been trying to catch up ever since. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, is helping out by essentially letting propane jump to the head of the line. And that's a big deal.

ANDY BLACK: Pipeline operators are not supposed to discriminate on behalf of anybody.

BRADY: Andy Black heads the Association of Oil Pipe Lines and he says regulators try to make sure all companies and products have equal access to pipelines. But last week, FERC decided the propane issue was so severe that it needed to do something. It told Texas company Enterprise Products to give propane an advantage for shipments leaving near Houston up to the Midwest and Northeast.

Jeff Petrash's group, the National Propane Gas Association, asked FERC to make the change.

JEFF PETRASH: This is the first time it's ever been done since the Interstate Commerce Act was passed by Congress more than a hundred years ago.

BRADY: The FERC order is in effect for seven days and Petrash says he hopes this takes care of the problem for this winter.

Jeff Brady, NPR News.

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