Disaster emergency declared in Colorado for propane shortage

DENVER (KKTV) - A propane shortage could leave thousands of Coloradans without enough fuel in the dead of winter.

Officials say the shortage stems from in-state production issues, which have forced propane suppliers to turn to out-of-state resources. That has resulted in significantly longer delivery trips -- and a burgeoning crisis affecting 33,000 propane customers.

A major storm system is expected to batter much of Colorado right after Christmas, with the eastern plains -- where many of the affected propane customers live -- forecast to be hit hardest.

In response to the burgeoning crisis, Gov. John Hickenlooper declared a disaster emergency Monday. As part of his declaration, he is relaxing restrictions on how many hours drivers can work.

The entire declaration can be read below:

"Governor John W. Hickenlooper declared a disaster emergency in Colorado due to a propane supply shortage potentially impacting 33,000 propane customers in predominately rural regions. These customers may not be able to receive enough propane to heat their homes in the near future. Hickenlooper issued a verbal executive order just after 11 a.m. on December 24, 2018 due to propane production issues, anticipated severe weather conditions and an ongoing propane supply shortage. The executive order suspends the hours-of-service regulations that normally prevent intrastate drivers of commercial motor vehicles from transporting propane winter heating fuel until January 8, 2019 at midnight. The executive order applies to drivers who are primarily working on this emergency.

State agencies, including the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Colorado Energy Office and the Colorado State Patrol began regular coordination, both internally and with the Colorado and New Mexico Propane Gas Associations on December 18 to evaluate the extent and possible impacts of the shortage. As a result of this coordination, participating agencies concluded that the shortage did, in fact, present a clear risk to populations dependent on propane for heating.

Ongoing production issues at Colorado propane facilities during December 2018 caused the propane industry to seek supplies outside of the state, significantly increasing the amount of time needed to transport propane used for winter heating fuel. The propane industry attempted to address the issue with rationing and other means, however propane shortages continue. Further, expected extreme winter weather over the coming weeks will increase demand for propane used as a winter heating fuel. The State of Oklahoma has issued a similar order to address shortages within that state. The commercial vehicle industry is impeded from continuing statewide propane fuel delivery operations for winter heating purposes. As a result, many Coloradans are left without a mechanism to heat their homes.

The executive order will:
Suspend the hours of service regulations until midnight, January 8, 2019, to the extent that they prevent the delivery of necessary propane winter heating fuel to distribution points within Colorado.
The above-mentioned directive is subject to the following conditions:
All drivers, companies, and entities involved in the transportation and delivery of propane winter heating fuel shall prioritize safe practices in all phases of transportation and delivery of said propane winter heating fuel.

This exception shall not be construed as an exemption from Colorado Revised Traffic Codes, as it relates to general motor vehicle safety, state and federal financial responsibility requirements, commercial driver’s license requirements, size and weight regulations, or any federal motor carrier safety regulations not specifically identified.
This exception shall also not be construed as an exemption from the statute which prohibits ill or fatigued drivers from operating a motor vehicle.

Motor carriers or drivers currently subject to an out-of-state service order issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are not eligible for the exception until that order expires or the conditions have been met.

State agencies will continue coordination with the associations and propane industry through this period to assess progress towards reducing the shortage to a level that no longer poses a risk to communities."