Gov. Mark Dayton’s Executive Council voted unanimously Friday to extend for an extra 30 days an emergency order to alleviate the state’s ongoing propane shortage.

The order, initially issued Monday,  was brought on in the wake of the shortage not only in Minnesota, but throughout the Midwest and northeastern United States following weeks of sub-zero temperatures  and aggravated by pipeline shutdowns and the preceding fall harvest, which also drew down propane supplies, said Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman.

“What we have seen for example is shortages at people’s homes. Their propane tanks are being drawn down to 30, 20, 10 percent and we’re starting to hear that they’re out in places,” Rothman told the Council.

Dayton said there’s not a shortage of propane in the country, rather that distribution and infrastructure simply can’t handle the capacity necessary to meet the demand. He was recently among six governors in a conference call with Texas Gov. Rick Perry who waived restrictions on trucks hauling propane from Texas for another two weeks. He plans on daily conference calls with state emergency management to stay apprised of the situation.

“This is going to be day by day, week by week,” Dayton said. “It’s just very hard for the system to catch up because it’s constrained to what present demand is.”

Prices are also skyrocketing, from the average of $1.60 a gallon to as much as $6.67, he said.

“Obviously for senior citizens and people dependent on small budgets, those prices are devastating.” Rothman added.

A hotline set up to address propane-related issues received 150 calls Thursday, and as of noon Friday, another 250 people called. The state received an additional $16 million for its Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, allowing the state to increase its crisis funding from $500 to $1,000 in assistance per household.

Still, Rothman said, “We’re going to be tight.” That amount of money is intended to assist 140,000 Minnesota homes through April and May, even without a crisis situation like this. Additional money is likely needed.

Minnesota’s State Emergency Operations Center is also coordinating with other agencies to set up warming shelters should residents be unable to fill their propane tanks. The State Emergency Operations Center Hotline can be reached by calling 1-800-657-3504.

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