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Wisconsin senators ask for federal help with propane shortage

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By Mike Simonson

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Wisconsin’s two U.S. senators are asking for federal action to ease the propane shortage and skyrocketing costs.

Just a few days ago, Phyllis Hames of Grantsburg saw her propane tank reach 90 percent empty with no new deliveries anytime soon. Since then, the local dealer put 200 gallons in her tank. She says it’s been an ordeal for her.

“It’s really hard to describe how vulnerable you feel,” Hames said. “I got an email from a guy at the Department of Energy saying he hopes I could get propane but if I didn’t, there would be shelters where I could go to stay warm. That’s pretty scary.”

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin has asked President Obama to cut back on propane exports until the domestic supply rebounds.

“It could get worse before it gets better,” Baldwin said, “so people are hopefully thinking about next steps and a plan B in the worst instances.”

She says propane prices of $1.50 per gallon last summer rising to more than $6 per gallon now means more heating assistance is needed. “Prices [have reached] six times what they were earlier in the year, and nobody was predicting or budgeting for those price increases. Families are going to need some help with this.”

In a news release, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson says regulations on transporting propane should be eased. He doesn’t like Baldwin’s plan of interfering with propane exports. He says imports are increasing, so the federal government shouldn’t interfere.

Hames has another idea: “We could definitely use an early spring,” she said. 

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