PropanePAC backs GOP legislators

January 1, 2001 By    

Propane issues may get a better hearing in the House than the Senate in the new Congress, assuming campaign contributions lead to influence.

PropanePAC, the political action committee affiliated with the National Propane Gas Association, poured most of its money into House races as opposed to Senate races during the election cycle that ended in November. And it picked candidates much more successfully in the House than it did in the Senate.

All told, PropanePAC donated 81 percent of its $57,239 in contributions to Republicans. On the House side, it gave $31,691 to 24 House Republican candidates and $7,500 to 9 Democrats, including Blue Dog conservative Democrat Charles Stenholm. It donated mainly to entrenched incumbents and only one of the 33 lost his seat – Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.).

On the Senate side, PropanePAC donated to 10 candidates during the 1999-2000 election cycle. Again, it favored Republicans over Democrats by a score of eight to two. But it didn’t do as well, batting only .500 with four winners and four losers.

PropanePAC also donated to two senators not up for re-election wishing to get a head start on re-election financing: Republicans Frank Murkowski of Alaska and James Inhofe of Oklahoma. PropanePAC aided in the failed efforts of Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.) to maintain his seat and Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.) to keep Hillary Rodham Clinton out of the Senate.

While still a relatively small player in the political action committee world, PropanePAC increased its activity from the 1997-98 election cycle. It gave $47,361 then, 86 percent of which went to Republicans.

Still, it contributed just 1 percent of oil and gas PAC money. All told, oil and gas related PACs donated $5.57 million to federal candidates in the recently completed campaign. Like PropanePAC, they lavished 79 percent ($4.34 million) on Republicans.

PACs affiliated with a single major oil company donated most of the oil and gas cash. Exxon Mobil spread around $491,100; Koch Industries $385,274; and Chevron $251,038.

Among trade groups, the American Gas Association’s PAC gave $135,000 – more than twice as much as PropanePAC. The Independent Petroleum Association of America spent about three times more at $170,500. The Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers gave even more: $198,500.

PropanePAC raised $69,044 (leaving it with more than $11,000 in cash-on-hand), almost exclusively from individuals in the propane business. It listed 115 contributors on its report to the Federal Election Commission. Almost all of it came from individuals who listed their primary occupation in the energy business and their family members. Corporations aren’t allowed to contribute.

It should be noted that most of the figures come from the FEC and an analysis of them by the Center for Responsive Politics, based on filings made in October and November. They may not reflect final distributions, as PACs haven’t submitted final reports yet.

A look ahead
Expect the LP gas market to grow less than 1 percent a year for the next 20 years. At least if you believe the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook.

EIA projected an average market growth rate in LP gas consumption of 0.8 percent between 1998 and 2020, from 2.58 quadrillion Btu per year to 3.38 quadrillion.

Look for the fastest growth to occur mainly in the relatively small transportation market, where EIA projects an annual 4.8 percent growth rate from 1998 to 2020. EIA sees commercial and industrial use rising a modest 1 percent a year in that period. The federal agency is projecting a 0.7 percent annual long-term drop in residential use.

Don’t look for prices to go up much either. In inflation-adjusted 1999 dollars, EIA sees the price of residential propane rising 1 percent annually from $10.45 per million Btu to $12.87 between 1998 and 2020. Prices for transportation should rise an average annual 0.3 percent from $11.23 to $13.84. The industrial price should drop 0.4 percent a year in adjusted dollars from $7.27 to $7.83.

EPA eyes forklift regulations
2001: A Spark Ignition Engine Pollution Control Odyssey could be the title of an upcoming saga.
The Environmental Protection Agency has announced it plans to develop emission regulations of several types of vehicle engines exempt from current federal laws. These include non-road large spark ignition engines, many of which use propane as fuel. The proposed regulation would impact vehicles used largely indoors, including forklifts.

The agency says that most manufacturers haven’t adopted technical advances for spark ignition engines that they use in cars and trucks. “LPG and natural gas engines typically use mixer technology that has changed little over the last several decades,” EPA’s notice states.

It says it will base its proposed standards on “what manufacturers can achieve with available technology,” including near- and long-term standards. It is basing its proposal, in part, on standards California has already developed.

EPA also wants comments on the possibility of developing an industrial specification for LP gas fuels because lower-quality fuels might cause condensation and gumming in engines. This could harm engines’ meter fueling capability and therefore emissions control.

EPA is taking public comments before formally issuing a proposed rule. You can send comments on topics including possible effects on business, technological feasibility, suggestions for meeting or modifying rules, etc. by Feb. 5 to Margaret Borushko, U.S. EPA, National Vehicle & Fuels Emission Laboratory, 2000 Traverswood, Ann Arbor, MI 48105. E-mail: Phone: 734.214-4334. Fax: 734.214-4050. Refer to Docket A-2000-01.

For copies of the proposal, see the Dec. 7 Federal Register here.

Lower bobtail fees
Carrying hazardous materials might get your Department of Transportation registration fee reduced. You might even get a refund.

Because the DOT raised more money than it had anticipated in its Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness Grant Fund, it is reducing fees collected for its maintenance. It’s not that the folks at RSPA feel generous – a law requires them to cut intake when the fund gets large enough.

Last February, RSPA announced it would raise fees: small businesses had to pay $300 while most other carriers had to pay $2,000. It turns out that the agency collected about $8.5 million more than the $14.3 million it is allowed to spend on the grants. So it proposes to reduce fees through 2006-07 to $275 for small businesses and $500 for others. If you paid in advance, RSPA would give you a prorated refund.

But RSPA will consider other suggestions before deciding what to do. Possibilities: Requiring the same fee of all carriers or reducing it only for some. RSPA also proposes to require non-profits to pay the same fees as small businesses and to adopt size standards in the North American Industry Classification System.

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