It’s not mid-winter cold just yet.
But it’s going to be soon enough.
Yet state lawmakers have allowed residents who heat their homes with propane to enter another winter without giving them the ability to obtain emergency fuel when their tanks unexpectedly run out.
A bill (A8940A/S7986) cosponsored by Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara and Sen. Jim Tedisco was introduced in January that would allow those who lease propane tanks to obtain propane in a weather emergency from a company other than the company that owns the tank.
Right now, if you lease your tank, you must purchase your propane from the company you lease it from.
If you run out of fuel and they don’t deliver, you’re stuck in a heatless home until they show up.
In some cases last winter, local homeowners were forced to either go without heat or to rely on potentially harmful or costly alternatives such as space heaters until their propane company refilled the tank.
Sick and elderly individuals and young children are at particular risk from even short periods without heat.
Yet current state law forces them to wait for propane from their contracted delivery company, even if that company is unable to quickly refill their tank.
The legislation would only be triggered in an official government-declared emergency or if someone was in imminent danger of death or injury.
And customers would have to make a good-faith effort to request fuel and wait a reasonable period of time for delivery.
For a customer to receive the emergency propane, the tank would have to have all its inspections and certifications up to date to protect delivery companies from liability of filling a damaged tank.
And only licensed companies could deliver emergency propane, thereby protecting the consumer from the danger of leaks or explosion due to delivery by unqualified suppliers.
Lawmakers can still address outstanding concerns by amending the bill to require customers to sign a waiver of liability for the emergency fuel, and by allowing companies to sign agreements with one another to service each other’s customers in an emergency.
As winter quickly approaches, propane users still face the same dangers from the cold as they did last year.
By the time lawmakers come back into session, winter will be well underway. They must act immediately to pass this bill when they reconvene.
No one should have to suffer because of a law that puts the financial interests of private companies over the health and well-being of the people.