WASHINGTON, DC (KELO AM)—U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today applauded the enactment of his bipartisan legislation, the Reliable Home Heating Act (S. 2086). Thune’s bill, which he introduced earlier this year along with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), will provide governors greater autonomy when declaring emergencies, without the need for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to declare that a disaster exists beyond the current 30-day declarations available to governors. The legislation will also require the Energy Information Administration to provide early warnings to governors if the inventory of residential heating fuel (propane, natural gas, and home heating oil) falls below the most recent five-year average for more than three consecutive weeks.
“Propane shortages and record-high home heating fuel prices put a tremendous strain on families who struggled to heat their homes and businesses this past winter,” said Thune. “With the enactment of my bill, I hope South Dakotans can rest a little easier knowing when future propane and heating fuel shortages arise, governors and fuel distributors will now have autonomy to take the necessary steps to swiftly address shortages.”
In late January, the FMCSA extended state emergency orders for 36 states providing regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operators transporting home heating fuels into areas experiencing propane and heating fuel shortages this winter. Commercial carriers were exempted from federal Hours-of-Service regulations to allow for greater delivery of home heating fuels. As a result of related bipartisan legislation that the president signed into law, FMCSA extended the emergency orders for certain impacted states until May 31, 2014, unless a governor felt that such a declaration was no longer needed. Due to widespread shortages, residential propane prices nearly doubled to $4 per gallon in February of this year creating hardships for families and businesses alike.
Previously, the governor of a state could declare a state of emergency due to shortages of home heating fuel, which would provide a 30-day exemption from certain federal regulations for operators of commercial motor vehicles. At the conclusion of these 30 days, the exemptions would expire unless extended by FMCSA or otherwise addressed by a presidential disaster declaration. This legislation will give the governor of a state the authority to extend the state of emergency for two additional 30-day periods, for a total of 90 days without FMCSA action.
The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has jurisdiction over the FMCSA, which is a component of the U.S. Department of Transportation.