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Pipeline increases propane flow

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WASHINGTON — A pipeline company promises it will ship more propane to the Midwest and Northeast.

The action comes after the Obama administration responded to dozens of lawmakers and governors who demanded action as propane prices soared and temperatures plummeted.

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Enterprise Product Partners told shippers it would inject an extra 150,000 barrels of propane into its pipeline on Monday and 350,000 barrels on Thursday. Later, in a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, it said it was willing to continue prioritizing shipments until Feb 21.

The commission used its emergency powers for the first time to order more propane shipments after the fuel was reported in short supply and with prices in places five times what they normally were.

The Enterprise pipeline runs north from the Gulf of Mexico and ships a variety of products in addition to propane. Enterprise said delivery of other refined products will be delayed 36 to 48 hours while it prioritizes propane shipments.

A combination of high demand due to a cold winter and a late harvest and historically low inventories has led to the shortages around the Upper Midwest.

Propane prices at Conway, Kansas, a storage hub that serves the Upper Midwest, spiked at a record $5 a gallon at the end of January but have since come down to pre-crisis levels below $2.

More than 70 members of Congress wrote to President Barack Obama Monday asking for more action.

“Any further reduction in supply threatens to leave many Americans without the fuel necessary to heat homes, businesses and livestock and poultry operations,” U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Adrian Smith, R-Neb., wrote. “We ask that you take immediate action to help improve this dire situation and are prepared to help find responsible solutions.”

More than 20 states have declared states of emergencies due to the propane situation.

“Pipeline regulators signaled their response to significant concerns from House and Senate pressure,” National Turkey Federation President Joel Brandenberger said. “Congress stepped up and extended a lifeline of support to secure propane for barns to keep animals warm and family homes safe in isolated farmland areas.”

Reuters News Service contributed to this story.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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