EDITORIAL: Propane bill headed to governor – finally

Residents of Victory Avenue in Schenectady try to get their properties clear after Winter Storm Stella.
Residents of Victory Avenue in Schenectady try to get their properties clear after Winter Storm Stella.

Jan. 9, 2018: EDITORIAL: Fast-track emergency propane bill

Oct. 30, 2018: EDITORIAL: Propane users still left in the cold

Nov. 16, 2019: EDITORIAL: Propane bill urgently needed

June 24, 2022: EDITORIAL: Propane bill headed to governor.

What the hell took so long?

For the better part of the past four years, the state Legislature fiddled while residents faced freezing in their homes during winter due to a lack of propane.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara’s crusade to pass a simple bill would never have taken this long if government officials showed as much compassion for their citizens as they do for businesses and lobbyists.

The bill is simple. If you lease a propane tank and your regular supplier can’t fill it when you’re facing a heat emergency, you can contract with another supplier to fill it.

In weather emergencies and when supplies are in high demand, some propane suppliers are unable to fulfill the needs of all their residential and commercial customers. Maybe they run out of fuel to serve everyone at once. Maybe they don’t have enough trucks or staff to make all the necessary deliveries. Maybe they simply can’t get to a home because of snow and ice.

Whatever the reason, it seems reasonable that residents whose tanks are empty or running dangerously low should be able to avoid freezing to death by finding someone who will provide them with propane when the company with which they have their contract can’t or won’t fill their tanks.

But existing law hasn’t allowed that.

Under the bill, all regular safety inspections and testing would have to be done before any tank can be refilled to prevent safety issues. If you’re dealing with a reputable supplier, those all should be in place when the emergency occurs.

So we’re talking about making a temporary exception to the rules during an emergency vs. letting people go without heat.

Yet the Legislature has struggled for several years to pass a bill that would allow this exception. Until now.

The Legislature finally passed Santabarbara’s bill, cosponsored by Assemblyman Phil Steck, and has sent it to Gov. Kathy Hochul for her signature.

She should not hesitate to sign the bill (A1451/S8426). There’s a legitimate reason for haste. The bill doesn’t take effect until 120 days after it’s signed into law. That would place its effective date near the end of October – just when heating season often begins in our region.

The Legislature waited too many winters to pass this bill. It put too many people’s health and welfare in jeopardy. It allowed fear and dread to creep into the minds of our sick and elderly and their families, particularly those living in rural areas where deliveries can be challenging in bad weather.

By passing this bill and by the governor signing it, that risk and dread can be reduced.

A compassionate government passes a bill like this. But it does it on the first try.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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