SAN LUIS VALLEY — Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order declaring a propane emergency Dec. 24 for approximately 33,000 rural customers in central and southern Colorado.
The news release detailing the executive order notes that propane production issues plus weather conditions have combined to create a shortage of propane in the above areas. Hickenlooper is concerned that the shortage could affect thousands dependent on propane for heat in the specified areas.
“These customers may not be able to receive enough propane to heat their homes in the near future,” the press release states. Hickenlooper’s statement also explains that state agencies joined by the Colorado and New Mexico Propane Association have decided that the difficulties in obtaining propane could create problems for propane customers.
Jones Oil owner Moe Joes said Thursday that the issues arose because one Arizona plant shut down, a plant in northern Colorado was only at 40 percent production owing to a slow down to accommodate maintenance issues and New Mexico had problems with its rail cars.
The facility in Ignacio was the only one running at full capacity, and it was having trouble keeping up with demand. This forced propane providers to seek suppliers from out of state, which placed drivers in danger of violating the state law which says they can only drive so many hours before stopping to rest.
“Hickenlooper just relaxed the hours of service for drivers,” Jones said. “They can still go out of state to transport propane.” There are plenty of propane providers, in Kansas, Jones explained, one of which is in Conway Springs. There the provider has a huge cavern filled with propane that Colorado propane dealers can tap into.
“We used to have them in Colorado, but they shut them down,” Jones commented.
Jones noted that there isn’t really a shortage of propane in the state, adding that he bought supplies ahead and doesn’t believe he will have any problem providing for his customers. Already customers were calling on Wednesday to ask him to fill up their tanks following the press release from the governor, he said.
The real shortage is not about propane but about semi-truck drivers, he pointed out. Like many other occupations, employers are having difficulty finding experienced drivers who can pass background checks, have the proper training and do not have a history of drinking or drugging and driving.
Media reports issued after Dec. 24 corrected the impression that there was an actual shortage, stating there appears to be enough propane to go around. They did caution, however, that propane costs are scheduled to increase after the first of the year.