Thune, Klobuchar Introduce Bill To Update EIA Supply Report

(October 27, 2017) — U.S. Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) have introduced legislation sought by the propane industry to improve the accuracy, monitoring, and reporting of propane stocks and days of supply by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). The National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) reports the bill would require, not later than 30 days after enactment, “that any data published relating to days of supply of propane inventories in the United States include a calculation of the volume of exports of propane.”

The Thune/Klobuchar legislation reinforces an existing law previously sponsored by the lawmakers that provides for emergency action in the event of dangerous heating fuel shortages. Their new bill, S. 1972, again, would require EIA to include propane export volumes in the data it publishes relating to U.S. inventories, an important change that would address continued growth in propane exports.

Currently, the Thune/Klobuchar Reliable Home Heating Act, which became law in 2014, grants governors the authority to provide relief from motor carrier rules in the event of a declared emergency. The law requires EIA to provide early warnings to governors if the inventory of residential heating fuel—propane, natural gas, and fuel oil—falls below the most recent five-year average for more than three consecutive weeks. The proposed modification in the new legislation would require EIA reporting and forecasting to include export data.

“As winter approaches, it’s always important to take every necessary precaution to prepare for the possibility of drastically low temperatures,” said Thune. “By altering the Energy Information Administration’s reporting and forecasting to include the significant impact of exports in its data, we will be able to improve fuel inventory forecasting to better ensure fuel shortages are quickly and efficiently addressed so home heating is not at risk during extreme cold.”

“As temperatures begin to drop and propane prices rise, red tape shouldn’t limit a family’s ability to keep their homes warm,” said Klobuchar. “Our bipartisan bill would help governors act quickly to address propane and fuel shortages and ensure that every family has access to heat this winter.”

NPGA has long sought the change for EIA’s days of supply calculation and included it among its asks at this year’s Propane Days lobbying effort on Capitol Hill. Noted was that while EIA tracks and publishes data on propane inventories and days of supply, it does not include export volumes in its calculation, causing confusion in the marketplace. Requiring EIA to alter its days of supply reports in this manner would give policymakers and the industry the most accurate supply picture possible, NPGA asserted.

At present, NPGA calculates days of supply with export volumes and publishes those results in its monthly Trend Report. However, EIA, the independent statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), does not. The result is not only a misalignment of the two reports, but an overstating of actual days of supply on the part of EIA. Such overstating implies to elected and government officials, and stakeholders, that volumes in storage are higher, perhaps much higher, than they in fact are.

Phil Squair, NPGA senior vice president, public and governmental affairs, confirmed that while the association has been meeting with EIA officials there was initially some pushback, with the agency maintaining it had neither the time nor resources to calculate export volumes and include them in its days of supply estimate, although no other objections were raised. At subsequent meetings with EIA and DOE regarding winter preparation, EIA said it was working on an alternative proposal that would meet the reporting requirement sought by the industry, although to date that alternative has neither been outlined nor presented.

“We have been told they’re working on an alternative proposal, but we haven’t seen it,” Squair said. “It would be great to work with the EIA team, and we’re open to working with anybody to get this done.” Meanwhile, NPGA is pursuing the legislative track with lawmakers who have delivered for the industry in the past. “This is a real, bipartisan bill,” he emphasized, backed by Thune, one of the Senate’s most influential members.