Bobtail tax slashed, as promised

March 1, 2003 By    

As promised, the bobtail tax was slashed and refunds are coming. The Research & Special Programs Administration (RSPA) lowered the tax even more than it planned — about $15 million in each of the next three years and about $6.5 million the year after that. RSPA found itself with a greater unexpended balance than it expected and Congress still hasn’t granted authority to spend it.

For the next three years, most registrants will pay $275 plus a $25 processing fee. Small businesses and non-profits will pay only $125 plus the $25 processing fee. RSPA anticipates collecting about $6 million a year with the new fee schedule, reducing the fund balance by about $8.3 million annually to reduce the surplus.

RSPA is giving the non-profit rate only to 501(c)(3)s, not to electric multistate cooperatives and similar large businesses classified as non-profits.

About 4,550 registrants who paid in advance for the next two years will get refunds. RSPA planned to send them a letter in February explaining how to get their money back. If you fall into this category and haven’t gotten a notice, call 202-366-4109. Refunds will range from $150 to $3,400.

After RSPA announced the reduction, the National Propane Gas Association and other groups representing carriers dropped a lawsuit demanding fee reductions or a spending of the surplus (see December column). “They did everything they said they’d do and more,” says Richard Schweitzer, the carriers’ lawyer. “The issue is,where will we be in three years when this temporary reduction is over?”

Briefly Speaking

  • LIHEAP money released

The Department of Health & Human Services has released
to states $200 million of the $300 million Low Income Home Energy Assistance
Program reserve fund to help cope with heating oil price increases. It
is withholding the remaining $100 million “for future energy emergencies.”

  • API consensus draft coming

The American Petroleum Institute plans this spring to issue
a draft for a consensus standard for pipeline operators to use in developing
public awareness programs. It sought public comment last fall in devising
the standards.

  • January drawdown sets record

Cold weather caused a record drawdown of 18.6 million barrels
during January, a level that surpassed the previous monthly record of 17.6
million barrels set during January 1994. The Energy Information Administration
reported that residential propane prices increased 22.4 cents/gallon to
an average of $1.359 cents, since January 2002. Wholesale prices rose 1.4
cents over the year to 69.6 cents per gallon.

  • New ergonomics group formed

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration established
the National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics for two years as part of
the new approach to reducing workplace injuries. NACE will provide advice
on guidelines, research and providing public information and assistance.

  • RSPA wants to use NFPA rules

At NPGA’s request, RSPA is proposing to incorporate the National
Fire Protection Association pamphlet “Standard for the Storage & Handling
of Liquefied Compressed Gases” to the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code. RSPA
also proposes to allow the American Society for Testing & Materials
E 114-95 test method for straight beam exam of the tubular surface of cylinders
and tubes. The method measures wall thickness to detect corrosion and defects.

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