PERC restriction addressed in proposed legislation

November 15, 2014 By    

Congress introduced bipartisan legislation that would lift a U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) restriction on the Propane Education & Research Council‘s (PERC) consumer outreach activities.

DOC has restricted PERC’s consumer outreach activities since 2009 in response to rising propane prices compared with other heating fuels. The council has been authorized to focus only on research and development, and safety-related initiatives.

But while the law requires DOC to recalculate the price comparison every six months during the restriction, DOC has completed the task just three times over the last five years, the National Propane Gas Association reports.

According to a press release, the bill would direct DOC to more accurately calculate consumer propane costs and allow the propane industry to use its resources to mitigate price spikes. The bill, which Reps. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, and Tim Walz, D-Minn., introduced as the Propane Education and Research Enhancement Act of 2014, would specify congressional intent that DOC must use data reflecting all propane sectors – not just residential.

In 1996, when Congress enacted the Propane Education & Research Act, DOC was instructed to calculate the price for consumer grade propane annually and compare it with an index of prices of specified competing fuels.

The law authorized the propane industry to collect an assessment and use its own resources, through PERC, for safety, training, research and development, and education for the benefit of propane consumers and the public. The assessment rate stands at four-tenths of a cent per gallon of odorized propane and totals more than $30 million in annual revenue for the industry.

At its November meeting, PERC discussed the need to develop a strategic plan for council programs and funds, if the government were to lift the restriction.

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