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Armed and dangerous

March 1, 2005 By    

When the propane industry descends on Capitol Hill May 10-11 to plug its inaugural Propane Days, it will arrive armed with two new, potent pieces of ammunition.

 Patrick Hyland
Patrick Hyland

In one hand will be a fat, 69-page study of the propane industry’s impact on U.S. and state economics and the job market. In the other will be a fistful of contribution receipts from the most successful year in the history of the National Propane Gas Association’s political action committee.

That’s like adding brass knuckles in the middle of a 15-round title fight.

Propane Days is the culmination of a year-long, $1.1 million capital awareness campaign to raise the profile of the propane industry with members of Congress and top regulatory officials. In short, it is designed to influence those who make the decisions that impact our industry.

Getting their attention is much easier when you can show the ripple effect of a policy decision on the national economy, or when you remind them how much you ponied up to their election campaigns for supporting issues important to our industry.

The economic impact study, a staple for most every industry except ours, was contracted by the National Propane Gas Association and funded by the Propane Education & Research Council. This first-ever research concludes that the propane industry contributes nearly $30 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product each year and keeps more than 56,000 workers employed (See story).

Those impressive numbers should earn us more face time with lawmakers who have to answer to constituents in those areas benefitting from our business.

It’s also a fact of life that success in the political arena is influenced by contributions to the candidates whose vote you seek. Our counterparts with Rural Electric Cooperatives, big labor and the trial lawyers are among the strongest and most influential special interests in the nation.

NPGA’s political action committee – PropanePAC – has been around since the late 1970s. But in contrast to the powerful, $2 million machine of the trial lawyers, it struggled to mobilize a measly $60,000 worth of credibility and influence on Capitol Hill just three years ago.

Since then, NPGA has been pressing hard for personal contributions from the industry rank and file. Those efforts appear to have paid off; total receipts for 2004 were a record $146,000.

In fact, PropanePAC contributed more than double to House and Senatorial campaigns than any year prior to 2004. Additionally, PropanePAC Administrative Fund receipts were a record $61,000 and counting (the fiscal year ends Feb. 28).

I’m sure the staff at NPGA will dutifully remind our elected officials of those facts every chance they get.

More than ever, the propane industry needs to make its presence felt at the point where critical decisions are made. More than ever, we now have the resources and opportunity to do just that.

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