On the heels of a summit to discuss how to avoid repeating last year’s propane shortage in the midst of one of the most brutal winters in decades, Gov. Mark Dayton said Minnesota’s propane supply has increased by as much as 20-30 million gallons over last year, while rail lines and storage facilities have increased their capacity for both the harvest and rapidly approaching cold weather.

“I’d say the situation is very encouraging; much has advanced over what it was a year ago,” Dayton said, shortly after meeting with representatives from the propane, agriculture and rail industries as well as his Commissioners of Agriculture, Commerce, Pollution Control, and Transportation.

 “We’re not out of the woods; nobody is complacent but there’s been a lot more focus on this,” he said.

Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said a key propane storage facility in Conway, Kan. has increased its storage capacity by 15 percent, while multiple places in state have done the same. Dayton said the railroads have responded to calls to improve capacity to transport both harvested grain and propane.

Last winter, Dayton’s Executive Council voted unanimously to authorize and extend an emergency order to help alleviate the shortage, which included a hotline for propane-related issues. The state also 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.

“I expect if it’s another severe winter and if there’s another late harvest that requires a lot of propane for drying, then we’ll have another tight supply situation, but we’re better prepared to handle that,” Dayton said.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, as of August 9, propane supplies in the Midwest were 1.9 million barrels higher than last year, but still 1.6 million barrels below the five-year average.