From: The Honorable Robert E. Latta
Sent By: Mandy.Gunasekara@mail.house.gov
Date: 2/5/2014

Help Alleviate Propane Shortage in Midwest – Sign Letter urging Truck Weight Waiver

Supported by the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA)

Dear Colleague,

Many of you are already familiar with the ongoing propane shortage throughout the Midwest. Our offices have been fielding daily calls from families and farmers desperate to find propane needed to heat their homes and farming operations.  A number of delegations have already sent letters requesting an extension of the U.S. Department of Transportation hours of service exemptions that will allow truck drivers carrying emergency propane to drive beyond current federal limitations. Other federal agencies and state officials are also stepping up to assist.

As an important next step, we are requesting certain truck weight limitations be waived for the emergency transport of propane.  Lack of propane availability in high demand areas such as the Midwest has forced propane marketers to travel great distances in order to obtain the fuel. In fact, many propane truck drivers are driving from Midwestern states all the way to Mont Belvieu, TX, (close to Houston) which is home to the single largest propane storage facility in the world. A short-term waiver of truck weight limitations will allow propane marketers to almost double the amount of fuel they can move in one trip.

Pursuant to MAP-21 (P.L. 112-141), States may issue special permits during an emergency to overweight vehicles and loads that can easily be dismantled or divided (divisible loads), if:

  • The President has declared an emergency or major disaster under the Stafford Act;
  • The Permits are issued in accordance with State law; and
  • The permits are issued exclusively to vehicles and loads that are delivering relief supplies.

We are sending the attached, bipartisan letter to President Obama requesting he declare a state of emergency under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act) given the extreme winter weather wreaking havoc throughout the Midwest. Such a declaration will trigger the process by which federal truck weight restrictions can be waived for trucks carrying emergency propane to areas most in need.  To clarify, this would be a short-term waiver for emergency propane carriage only.

The deadline to sign-on is next Wednesday, February 12 by COB. Should you have any questions or are interested in co-signing, please contact Mandy Gunasekara in Mr. Latta’s  office at mandy.gunasekara@mail.house.gov or, Mark Ratner in Mr. Upton’s Office atmark.ratner@mail.house.gov.

Sincerely,

 

Robert E. Latta                                                             Fred Upton

Member of Congress                                                    Member of Congress

__________________________________________________________________

Dear President Obama:

We respectfully request your immediate attention to the ongoing supply shortage of propane throughout the Midwest and urge you to declare a state of emergency in the impacted areas currently experiencing unforeseen cold temperatures for purposes of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5121, et. seq.).  Such a declaration will ultimately allow vehicles carrying emergency supplies of propane to exceed certain Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) weight limitations, so that those most in need can receive the emergency supplies as soon as possible.

Historic low temperatures plaguing the Midwest, alongside a number of transportation and distribution challenges have led to an unforeseen scarcity of propane.  As the critically low supply continues to dwindle, many of our constituents will be unable to heat their homes or maintain a livable environment for livestock farming operations.  Further concerning is the price spike of propane that many of our constituents simply cannot afford.  According to the Energy Information Agency (EIA), the retail price of propane in the Midwest (PADD 2) increased from an average of $2.37 per gallon in the first week of January to over $4 this past week.  We have even heard reports of $6 per gallon in certain communities.  In the face of single digit temperatures with below zero wind chills, access to heat is no longer an option but a requirement for survival.

A number of other federal agencies and officials have already taken important steps to help mitigate the ongoing shortage.  We appreciate the work by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy.  In addition to these efforts, we believe that a waiver of truck weight restrictions for a short-term period is needed to provide relief to our impacted constituents.  A weight restriction waiver will allow propane marketers to increase the volume of propane they can transport per interstate trip, which will speed up the delivery of emergency propane to the areas, and individuals, most in need.

Weight limitations for vehicles operating on the Interstate System are set by 23 U.S.C. §127 with maximum weight limits set at 20,000 lbs. for single axle; 34,000 lbs. for tandem axle; and a gross weight of 80,000 lbs.  In order to exceed these Federal weight limitations, a Special Permit is required. Section 1511 of MAP-21 (P.L. 112-141) authorizes States to issue special permits, or waivers, to overweight vehicles and loads that are delivering relief supplies during an emergency.  For purposes of propane transport, this would allow propane marketers to almost double the amount of fuel they can move at once.   However, before a special permit can be issued, the President must first declare a state of emergency under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5121, et. seq.).

Given the dire situation faced by our constituents and the unrelenting extreme weather conditions, we respectfully request you make such a declaration as soon as possible.  The declaration will serve as a trigger to the truck weight waiver process and will undoubtedly bring essential relief.

We appreciate your attention to this matter and consideration of this request. We stand ready to assist in any way in order to bring much-needed relief to all impacted citizens.

Sincerely,