Capitol Gains

July 1, 2008 By    

Nothing matches the experience of sitting down, meeting face to face with the local congressman or senator and explaining issues that are central to the propane industry. That was the message that came from Propane Days, hosted June 9-11 at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill.

 1. The Propane Gas Association of New England with Sen. John Sununu, third from right, of New Hampshire.
1. The Propane Gas Association of New England with Sen. John Sununu, third from right, of New Hampshire.

“One of the most important things that PERC and NPGA do that’s included in our partnership agreement, that’s become an effective tool in the industry, is to tell the propane story in Washington,” said Glenn Saunders, chairman of the Propane Education & Research Council.

A record 311 people were registered, and 44 states were represented during the fourth annual event in the nation’s Capitol.

2. Joe Rose and Denis Gagne of the Propane Gas Association of New England meet with Rep. Paul Hodes, right.
2. Joe Rose and Denis Gagne of the Propane Gas Association of New England meet with Rep. Paul Hodes, right.

Carl Hughes, senior vice president of business development for Inergy LP, credited the notable speakers and the presidential election year as reasons for increased attendance.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and political analyst Tucker Carlson held attendees’ attention in their roles as featured speakers, offering their political insights. Deputy Secretary of Transportation Thomas Barrett and Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, also spoke.

Gingrich was given a standing ovation as he walked to the podium. He spoke about a country in need of change and how people must realize that “long cycles of fundamental change don’t happen overnight.”

3. NPGA officers Keith McMahan and Malcolm Barrett speak with Newt Gingrich, right.
3. NPGA officers Keith McMahan and Malcolm Barrett speak with Newt Gingrich, right.

For this reason, Gingrich helped launch a non-partisan organization called “American Solutions for Winning the Future.” It aims to unite a majority of Americans now and beyond the 2008 elections.

To address high gasoline prices, the organization pushes to “drill here, drill now and pay less.” Gingrich asked supporters to sign a petition, which can be accessed at www.americansolutions.com, urging members of Congress to consider proven energy reserves closer to home.

Gingrich said he wants to give his children and grandchildren a strong country – not one that is weaker, poorer, less capable and less safe. “Americans are worried about the immediate future and the future for their children,” he said.

4. The Pennsylvania Propane Gas Association before making its initial trip to Capitol Hill to meet with politicians.
4. The Pennsylvania Propane Gas Association before making its initial trip to Capitol Hill to meet with politicians.

Carlson based much of his speech on years covering the political scene in Washington, using anecdotes from the presidential race.

“How are you going to do today?” Carlson recalled asking John McCain during the primaries.

“I don’t know,” McCain told Carlson. “I believe in luck.”

5. The welcome reception kicks off Propane Days, bringing industry members together.
5. The welcome reception kicks off Propane Days, bringing industry members together.

Barrett announced the renewal through May 31, 2012, of the special permit allowing the transportation of consumer storage tanks with greater than 5 percent propane. The permit applies to tanks up to 500 gallons water capacity.

Barrett also offered a challenge to industry members on ways to improve today’s energy policy.

6. Robert Reeves of Reeves Tri-Counties Propane enjoys the welcome reception.
6. Robert Reeves of Reeves Tri-Counties Propane enjoys the welcome reception.

“Energy demand will continue to grow, but what will change is how that energy is delivered,” he said. “We need your best thinking on this. The best ideas are not going to come from the government. They’re going to come from you.”

Boucher said his committee is working on a cap-and-trade program that will address climate change. A bill of this type already failed on the Senate floor, but Boucher told Propane Days attendees that his committee is moving forward on a program to be passed by Congress. His committee will work with National Propane Gas Association President Rick Roldan and the propane industry on the legislation, which is intended to be bipartisan, he added.

Climate change was one of several main issues about which industry members spoke to their members of Congress. The others were the Department of Homeland Security’s chemical facility regulations and tax-credit renewals.

7. The Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill was headquarters for Propane Days 2008.
7. The Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill was headquarters for Propane Days 2008.

Prior to Propane Days, NPGA held its board of directors meeting and approved new officers. Malcolm Barrett replaced Keith McMahan as chairman of the board; Joe Cordill became chairman-elect; Roland Penta moved into the vice chairman’s role, while Hughes assumed the secretary treasurer’s position.

Propane Days kicked off with a welcome reception on the evening of June 9, and the program began the next morning. The first half of each day featured the lineup of speakers, and industry members spent the second half visiting with members of Congress or their aides.

“Your voice and your involvement in Propane Days,” Saunders told the audience, “is the most important step in getting the word out about propane.”

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