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Editorial: Propane bill urgently needed

Editorial: Propane bill urgently needed

State needs to step in and create a safety net
Editorial: Propane bill urgently needed
Photographer: Shutterstock

Earlier this week, many homeowners got a taste of what a nasty, cold winter we’re in for.

And it’s only mid-November.

While a lot of people are secure in how they’ll be able to heat their homes during the winter, some people who heat their homes with propane are facing the next several months with trepidation.

That’s because propane tanks tend to run out of fuel when homeowners least expect it.

And getting an emergency refill during particularly busy times like deep cold spells isn’t always guaranteed.

For the past couple of years, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara has sponsored legislation that would provide residents with heat, and peace of mind, when conditions threaten to leave them out in the cold with empty tanks.

Right now, if you lease your tank from a supplier, you often have to sign an agreement that you only can purchase propane from that particular supplier.

But in the past, there have been cases in which the regular supplier hasn’t been able to fill all its customers’ tanks when winter demand is high.

The elderly, small children and sick people are particularly vulnerable when inside temperatures plummet.

Santabarbara’s bill (A1434B/S6111), cosponsored by Assemblyman Phil Steck, would change existing law to allow homeowners leasing LPG containers to receive emergency deliveries from any supplier when their regular suppliers can’t fill a request.

(People who own their own tanks are not affected because they’re free to select their own suppliers.)

Affected customers would have to reasonably believe they might be about to run out of propane and must make a good-faith effort to obtain propane from their regular supplier first.

If the regular supplier can’t or won’t make the delivery within 24 hours, the customer may then contact an alternative supplier, under the bill.

Companies would not be able to charge additional fees or penalties during emergencies.

Legitimate propane companies should have no problem allowing competitors to fill their customers’ tanks in special, limited emergency situations.

The bill passed the Assembly in June, but didn’t get through the Senate, where it’s sponsored by Sen. Neil Breslin, who like Santabarbara is a Democrat.

With Democrats controlling both houses of the Legislature and Democrats sponsoring this bill in each house, there’s no reason for it not to pass.

It’s simple. If propane suppliers can’t guarantee they can fulfill the needs of their customers and protect their health and well-being, then the state needs to step in and create a safety net.

There’s no more time to waste.

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