The nation’s capital hosted propane leaders from across the country as the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) held its summer board meeting and annual Propane Days in Washington June 8-10. Board members converged on the city to hear industry updates, attend panel discussions and conduct board business, capping it off with the historic appointment of the first woman to chair the NPGA. The three-day event sharpened the industry’s focus on the future of propane, from ensuring propane’s viability as a clean-burning fuel through continued work with lawmakers and federal entities to ongoing efforts to lock in propane as a fuel of the present and future. What follows is an overview of the meeting.
NPGA’s First Woman Chair
The board had much to celebrate as Michelle Bimson Maggi, vice president — law at AmeriGas, assumed her role as NPGA Chair on June 10. In her speech, she detailed her path to AmeriGas, where she is able to help mitigate problems before they reach litigation. She acknowledged that her tenure as chair comes at a trying time for the industry — and she’s ready to forge ahead.
“The electrify everything movement has hijacked the national conversation on the future of energy, and each and every one of us has to … tell our story. The stakes have never been higher.”
Bimson Maggi also acknowledged the difficulties in explaining renewable energy’s role on the path to zero emissions, that it isn’t easy to make clear to people that “propane — albeit a fossil fuel — helps decarbonize our climate.” She challenged the industry to continue educating others on propane’s merits.
“We cannot let the electrify everything movement continue to set the narrative. Each of us needs to … fight for our industry,” she said. “One of my biggest takeaways from [the NPGA Southeast] Expo is that many people do want to speak up and get involved. We need to tap into that energy and encourage as much participation as possible.”
In closing, Bimson Maggi spoke about her historic appointment. “I’m very proud to be the first female chairman of NPGA. I know that all women and minorities in our industry see me and think to themselves, ‘I can do that and step up to volunteer for other leadership positions because our industry meets people from all different backgrounds, professions and capabilities to meet the challenges we have before us.’ Diverse thoughts and experiences will help us solve the problems we must solve if we want our industry to prosper.”
In his address, NPGA President and CEO Stephen Kaminski invoked the concept of the glass ceiling when he told Bimson Maggi, “I hope you’re wearing shoes under the [officers’] table, because there is glass everywhere.”
Along with Bimson Maggi, her fellow NPGA officers were sworn in for the 2022-2023 term. Jeff Stewart of Blue Star Gas will serve as chair elect; Tom Van Buren of Meritum Energy Holdings will fill the role of vice chair; and Mike Hopsicker of Ray Murray Inc. will serve as treasurer.
The board also celebrated Robert Barry’s service as NPGA chair over the past year. Barry was presented with a plaque and gavel to commemorate his time as chair. An honorary scholarship was also named in honor of Barry and his wife, Linda.
Moments of Note
Several important updates and panel discussions commenced throughout the board meeting. Here’s a rundown:
- Each district met virtually in May to discuss regional challenges. These ranged from recruitment and retention to inflation to state governments voting on electrification legislation.
- The Energy Coalition Panel detailed efforts to include propane in the Build Back Better Act and how to apply for the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program.
- In addition to five chair citations and the election of committee chairs and state directors, NPGA announced Ferrellgas’ return as a member of its state and regional associations.
Tucker Perkins, president and CEO of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), updated the board on priorities, including winter supply and crop yields, convincing consumers and marketers of the importance of renewable propane, and working with Cummins.
On winter supply: “While it is far too early to forecast crop harvest, yield and … moisture content, history tells us that when crops are planted as late as they have been this year, there is increased probability of crop drying demand. This is one more reason marketers and their customers need to prepare for the fall and encourage prefills.”
On renewable propane’s role: “The Joint Task Force has delivered a definition of renewable propane … as we begin to talk about what it is. The aspiration statement [shares] how renewable propane will help reduce carbon emissions. Most marketers will use this aspirational statement as they work with community leaders, code officials and legislators to clearly show how the industry will evolve with renewable fuels.”
And on hopes for the Cummins engine: “PERC is asking for the industry to step up and speak to their truck builders and their local dealers to request this engine. This will create an important ‘market pull’ for the truck OEMs to engage with Cummins for the propane engine. This is an important step in showing the truck OEMs the value of the propane engine in their truck chassis.”
Business as Usual Next Year
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this marked the third year without in-person meetings with legislators on Capitol Hill for Propane Days. A hybrid approach allowed leaders to meet with lawmakers virtually. The plan is to return to in-person meetings with Congressmembers in summer 2023. NPGA’s fall board meeting will take place Sept. 26-28 in Scottsdale, Arizona.