Point-Counterpoint: New Reality of Advocacy and Governance in 2019

By Joe Colaneri…

The 116th Congress is now in full swing, and while it has been difficult to read all of the political and policy tea leaves since the 2018 midterm elections, and after the government’s longest shutdown in history, some trends are now emerging. We can observe and speculate on the new reality on Capitol Hill even if we cannot, with certainty, predict policy outcomes.
The new reality of advocacy and governance in 2019 Capitol Hill for propane LPG industry
The outlines and character of a potentially new emerging Democratic majority will soon begin to become clear. All of this takes place in a highly charged political atmosphere shadowed by the upcoming 2020 presidential election, the fallout from the government shutdown, the newly divided government, the almost daily Democratic presidential candidate announcements, and the president’s own political vulnerabilities.

President Trump has, for now, redefined mainstream conservatism. While no one really knows what his lasting legacy will be politically or policy-wise, it is a safe bet that he has shifted the “movement conservative” playing field despite the protestations of the Never Trumpers—a group that makes up between 10% to 15% of today’s GOP. Trump commands north of 80% support within the Republican Party—so he owns movement conservatism for now.

And it could be said that the restive Tea Party movement that organized in 2009, and proved a significant political counterweight to President Obama’s agenda, provided the momentum that turned Congress toward the GOP in 2010 and 2014, and gave logical rise to Donald Trump’s insurgent presidency in 2016.

The Tea Party stands as one of the most significant political movements of the last 50 years—a movement that has shaped our national policy and politics, and our congressional and national leadership. It helped redefine Republicanism and define so-called “Trumpism”—a seeming hybrid of traditional GOP philosophy leavened by a populist grass-roots anti-establishment insurgency.

From the Tea Party came a platform of opposition to federal deficits, decreased federal regulation, minimal government involvement of any kind in health care, entitlement reform, and across-the-board tax cuts. This renewed orthodoxy—one part traditional GOP, one part populist—drove the GOP and culminated in the 2016 GOP victory and a governing Republican majority in the 115th Congress.

From a policy perspective, Trump will be mostly remembered for the tax cut bill in 2017 and for the ongoing program of administrative regulatory relief. In prior articles for BPN and particularly in the early months of the Trump Presidency, I strongly urged the propane industry to seize the opportunity the Trump Administration had offered to provide relief from burdensome rules and regulations—to categorize and prioritize those regulations and actively lobby the White House and the agencies in a once-in-a-generation transformative program. There was, and there still is, interest in building the economy by shielding businesses large and small from excessive and duplicative burden. I felt this could be accomplished, and still believe it can be accomplished, by a coalition of like-minded industries, or by the propane industry alone.

Trump Country Is Propane Country
The trick was, or will be, to engage the Trump country constituency—propane country—the states to which Trump owes his presidency, rural America, the Midwest, Michigan, Wisconsin, and the South and Southeast, North Carolina and Florida for example, to build powerful policy cases for regulatory relief.

Donald Trump is not a policy wonk, but he possesses exceptional political skills, knows his voters and his base, and his political lifeline is, in part, in propane country. This should be a natural organic alliance that provides the industry with opportunity, but it needs to be organized.

This cannot be a passive aggressive exercise. To be successful, it needs to be a strong, powerful grass-roots movement based on connecting the dots between the needs of the industry and the President’s natural political constituency. If any industry could do this, it would be propane. Trump still commands the agencies and his base remains intact. This regulatory initiative can still be accomplished—but the clock is ticking.

A New Reality
Political cycles wax and wane—and we now appear to have an ascendant Democratic House majority pressing an aggressive policy agenda from the left. Make no mistake about it—the outcome of these debates will impact the propane industry for a generation and may in time reshape the entire energy industry.
Trump and the Tea Party have, for now, redefined modern conservatism, but a new generation of House Democrats, empowered and emboldened by the biggest midterm popular vote victory in American history in 2018, is poised to redefine modern liberalism and perhaps seize the nation’s policy agenda.

What is now happening is apparent in the emerging domestic debates of 2019 being pressed by the House Democrats:
  • Support for a big government “Green New Deal” to fight climate change, which may become a signature issue in 2020
  • Support for “Medicare for All” going beyond the Obama-era Affordable Care Act and suggesting a much larger role for government in health care
  • Revisiting the tax reform and tax cuts of 2017 to pay for the “Green New Deal,” implying a new philosophy on the use of the tax code for social purposes and a paradigm shift in the assessment of tax code “winners” and “losers”
  • Infrastructure rebuild—a “go to the moon” style initiative that will not only tackle our nation’s aging roads and bridges, but reshape our entire economy through clean energy programs
  • Resilience and disaster relief that will respond to the challenges of climate change and have at its core new ideas for backup power, hybrid technology, combined heat and power (CHP), microgrids, vehicle-to-grid, and other hardened infrastructure concepts
  • Aggressive federal funding streams aimed at both short-term and long-term challenges (the FAA authorization bill has become the proxy for these new initiatives).
  • What Does This Mean For Propane?
  • The Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and revisiting tax policy are all shaping up as a new Democratic ideological orthodoxy and a progressive litmus test heading into 2020. These ideas and possible champions have suddenly burst onto the scene after years behind the curtain. Much as the Tea Party agenda began to take shape in 2009, there are now real opportunities to begin to realize more progressive goals, and a liberal-leaning counterpoint to the Trump base taking shape
  • in Congress and out beyond the Washington Beltway.
  • A recent Gallup poll shows 51% of Democrats identify themselves as liberals
  • In 1992, when Bill Clinton was elected president, 25% of Democrats identified themselves as liberals, 25% conservative, and the rest as moderate
  • And across the political spectrum the lean toward conservative has narrowed: 35% of Americans now say they’re conservative; 35% moderate; 26% liberal.
  • And there is intensity in the rising liberal base. It’s a “go big or go home” mindset.
The political energy in America right now—online, on cable, and with political donors—is with the progressives. Agree with the following premise or not, the new House Democrats will argue that their victory in 2018 suggests that the nation’s politics have taken an abrupt dramatic turn and has earned them capital to cash in.
While this suggests a shift in national policy direction, it is in no sense a finished product—rather it is a rough cut. The new liberals in Congress, much as their counterparts in the Tea Party a decade ago, are in pursuit of a new policy holy grail and they are not afraid to push the boundaries of the traditional norms and folkways of the Washington power elites—this time from the left.

This means robust oversight of the Trump Administration’s entire policy agenda and implementation of same, as well as the entertaining of ideas from the left long discussed but little debated seriously—changes in health policy, energy, financial regulation, and the means to pay for them.

The propane industry, indeed all stakeholders, need to be aware of and prepared for an aggressive policy and political soul-searching that could fundamentally change liberal orthodoxy across the board and challenge longstanding progressive policy.

How can the propane industry leverage the Trump Administration for signature regulatory relief but also tap the political momentum driving the Green New Deal? The answers are not necessarily mutually exclusive and may lie in an old industry business model that well served the industry a generation ago.

Much as the Tea Party gave rise to the norm-shattering Trump Presidency that for now has transformed traditional Republican governance, no one can ignore the potential transformational debates we may soon see from the left—a classic point-counterpoint that reflects the certainty of restive political energy and intensity on both sides of the political spectrum and challenges traditional policy approaches across the board.

A New Propane Advocacy Paradigm
How can the propane industry market its vast superiority as a domestic clean fuel to add value through advocacy? The answers may lie in tried-and-true grass-roots strategy while utilizing a few modern organizational trends.

The National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) has built a formidable grass-roots advocacy network over the years and reinforced its effectiveness with Propane Days, but the complexity of the issues now before Congress coupled with a divided government will challenge the industry as never before.

An Advocacy Template
The Propane Vehicle Council (PVC) of the mid-’90s sent Congress a loud and clear message of strong industry commitment to the motor fuel market. As it evolved, it began to include off-road as well as on-road vehicles in its policy portfolio, but the message sent was clear and its success was obvious. The old PVC successfully navigated national tax policy by securing motor fuel tax equity, and won some of the first-ever federal funding for propane vehicle deployment through the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program.

That same advocacy template, with a few variations, can now guide NPGA into the future. Using the infrastructure and resilience issues as a guide, the industry can take the old PVC model and reshape it to accommodate the new opportunities available to the industry on Capitol Hill and within state and local governments.
One option would be to form an updated infrastructure-style industry caucus within NPGA and organize the industry’s priorities into four broad categories: tax policy, funding, public policy, and regulatory relief. The industry could then begin to build internal and external coalitions around targeted issues, challenges, and opportunities.

In certain issue areas, it might be indicated for NPGA to join/form coalitions with like-minded industries to advance specific legislative or regulatory priorities. In fact, targeted issue coalitions are a significant advocacy trend on Capitol Hill. The point being that every new Congress provides every stakeholder an opportunity to reflect on prior policy battles and develop strategies to address those challenges.

The Green New Deal, divided government, and the looming 2020 elections will challenge traditional advocacy models but also provide all stakeholders with an opportunity to organize priorities and devise specific strategies to address them.

Propane’s built-in advantage of being a clean American fuel puts it on the side of emerging societal and political energy trends, while its obvious Trump-country constituency provides the industry with a grass-roots advantage in pressing the case for regulatory relief to a receptive and willing White House audience.

Joe Colaneri is a partner at AJW Inc., a Washington, D.C.- and Sacramento, Calif.-based public policy and advocacy firm. He was previously executive director of the Propane Vehicle Council from 1996-2002.

CoEnergy Propane and Community College Offer Propane Automotive Service Training Courses

There’s a growing need for technicians in a variety of industries, including the propane and alternative fueled-vehicles industry. Now is the time to start training people for those positions.
CoEnergy Propane teams with community college to offer autogas vehicle mechanic training in Oregon
Those are messages being promoted in the state of Oregon and across the country by a propane marketer and a community college. CoEnergy Propane (Albany, Ore.) and Linn-Benton Community College (LBCC; Albany, Ore.) partner in teaching students and automotive service professionals how to service propane-powered vehicles. They also are working to increase the number of educators teaching these skills nationwide.

In Oregon, they recently joined the state’s 16 other community colleges at two events promoting the importance of community colleges and their career technical education (CTE) programs. Career Technical Education Day (Feb. 1) and Community College Day (March 7) were held at the Oregon state capitol as legislators were working on the state budget. The rallies were organized to support funding that would enable community colleges and their CTE programs to maintain and add to the capacity needed to train workers.

Randy Camp of CoEnergy Propane attended both rallies. He is general manager of the company, which provides propane services to residential, agricultural, and commercial customers. He is also a member of the board of education of LBCC.

“CTE fills our industry’s pipeline with future employees,” he told BPN after the events. “Our employees are aging out and we don’t have quality, trained employees to fill those positions. Unemployment is at 4.3% here, so it’s hard to find employees. These Days show people in the Capitol that CTE is needed. By and large, we’ve had positive feedback from legislators.”

Representatives of LBCC also participated in the rallies. At CTE Day, the school showcased its transportation programs, which cover automotive, heavy equipment/diesel, and alternative fuels—including propane autogas. Participating industry partners included CoEnergy, Pacific Propane Gas Association, Propane Education & Research Council, and Papé Kenworth.
Coenergy partners Oregon Community College to offer classes to service propane autogas powered vehicles
“The CTE Day at the Capitol provided state reps in the House and Senate with information about community college programs that lead to high-wage, high-demand, highly-technical workforce skills and jobs—this is true in the propane industry and alt fuels,” said David R. Becker, dean of the Advance Manufacturing & Transportation Technology Division at LBCC.

Inside the Capitol, LBCC’s president, business leaders, dean, and other administrative staff met with representatives, senators, and their staff. Their messages to legislators included the following: Community colleges and their CTE programs provide critical training for today’s workforce. Graduates have a high employability rate and secure high-paying, career-oriented positions. Many are offered jobs before completing their program.

Outside, the college displayed a CoEnergy truck, a bi-fuel propane 2012 Caprice, and a 2010 CNG Freightliner. “We were able to display informational handouts on our industry partners along with vehicle displays that were eye candy resulting in conversations as they drew people’s attention—legislators and their staff,” Becker said.
“The purpose of CTE Day was to elevate CTE,” he added. “CTE is the core of what community colleges do—two-year programs that lead to high-paying jobs. Everybody doesn’t need a four-year degree to get quality high-paying jobs.”

“In the legislature, we are pushing for more funding for these programs because of the workforce needs. If you are in Oregon, reach out to your legislators and tell them to fund the community colleges. We don’t want to put all the expense of an education on the shoulders of the students. We want to keep that pipeline of educated and qualified employees flowing.”

LBCC has automotive and heavy transportation programs and offers this training to current students as well as industry professionals. Most industry classes are taught at the employer’s locations, mostly in the Pacific Northwest. LBCC has also made presentations at the SEMA Show, an automotive aftermarket trade show put on by the Specialty Equipment Market Association.

CoEnergy’s truck was at the two rallies to draw attention to the company’s cooperation with LBCC’s training of students on autogas technology. Among the services CoEnergy offers its customers is the conversion of cars, trucks, and vans to run on propane autogas. Its vehicle conversion center also serves in a consulting capacity to LBCC’s Advanced Transportation Technology Center (ATTC).

ATTC has a classroom, offices, and shop area designated for alternative fuels. Most of the technicians who have taken these courses are already employed. LBCC has seen students who had completed its alternative fuels classes take positions with dealerships, fleets, aftermarket fuel manufacturers, and propane marketers. Over the past five years, hundreds of technicians have been trained in LBCC’s alternative fuels courses.
Coenergy offers propane autogas mechanic courses
Highly Sought After
“Not many people know how these systems actually work,” said Bryan Schiedler, transportation technology department chair at LBCC. “Because of this fact, many of the people who take courses from us are highly sought after by fleets who use these systems, dealerships who sell vehicles to customers who use these systems, and other companies that do business with the fleets as well. For example, Knapheide has sent technicians to some courses so they don’t interfere with installations when adding a new body or other accessories.”

ATTC is now also training educators to expand the availability of this education nationwide. LBCC is a longtime member of the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3). “We have people come here from around the nation to get training in this sector. We can help with professional development; we have done that with other colleges,” Schiedler said. “Any business can look at getting their local community college involved,” he added.

Oregon has had a special interest in alternate fuels because the state is one of the leaders in the implementation of low-carbon fuel standards. There is also growing interest in these fuels nationwide, since the new Democratic majority in the House has been proposing green initiatives. This reinforces the need for technicians and educators focused on propane autogas-fueled vehicles.

“LBCC trains the trainer for this kind of project,” Camp of CoEnergy concluded. “This is the center of the hub and it will come out from here.”

For more information about LBCC and its ATTC, visit linnbenton.edu.

Federal Grants Now Available for Low-Emission Propane Autogas Buses

WASHINGTON (April 23, 2019) – The Propane Education & Research Council is encouraging public transit agencies to apply for up to $85 million in competitive grant funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration to purchase propane autogas transit vehicles as part of its “Low or No Emission (Low-No) Bus Program.”
Federal Dept of Transportation to provide up to $85 million in grant funding for propane autogas transit buses and vehicles reports BPN the propane industry's leading source for news and information since 1939
The program sponsors the purchase or lease of low- or no-emission public transit vehicles that use advanced technologies for transit revenue operations, including related equipment or facilities. A low- or no-emission transit vehicle must significantly reduce energy consumption or harmful emissions when compared to a standard vehicle. Projects may also include the costs for workforce training and administration expenses.
“Grants like the Low-No Bus Program are great ways for fleet managers to take advantage of both the financial and environmental benefits of propane autogas buses,” said Michael Taylor, director of autogas business development for PERC.
“Not only will fleets be able to use the money to purchase new transit vehicles, refueling equipment and infrastructure, but they will also enjoy savings throughout
the lifetime of the buses because propane autogas offers the lowest total cost-of-ownership of any fuel.”
In 2018, the program received 151 applications and 52 projects were funded for a
total of $84.4 million. The largest amount awarded to a single applicant was
$2.29 million and no state received more than 5 percent of the total funding available.
The FTA will award grants based on the applicant’s need, project benefits, implementation strategy and capacity. Applications are due by May 14, 2019 and awarded funds will be available for use through September 2022. For more information or to apply for the funds, visit grants.gov, keyword search “lowno.”
For more information about the benefits of propane autogas buses, visit Propane.com/Fleet-Vehicles.
About PERC: The Propane Education & Research Council is a nonprofit that provides leading propane safety and training programs and invests in research and development of new propane-powered technologies. PERC is operated and funded by the propane industry. For more information, visit Propane.com.

Propane People "In The News"

Ferrellgas Promotes Chad Pendill to director of business development reports BPN the propane industry's leading source for news and information since 1939. April 2019(April 2019) Ferrellgas (Overland Park, Kan.) has promoted Chad Pendill to director of business development, where he will support the company’s ongoing efforts to acquire multi-state and independent propane companies. Pendill, based in St. Michael, Minn., joined Ferrellgas as an account manager in December 2017 after a 27-year career in the wholesale equipment business.

EDP Keith BarkerEnergy Distribution Partners (EDP; Chicago) recently added several general managers to its staff including Keith Barker who joined the company as General Manager of Carolina Propane in Orangeburg, SC; and Carmichael Propane in Walterboro, SC. EDP acquired both companies in 2018. Barker’s industry experience started in 1987 and spans the Carolinas and Virginia. He began his industry career with Davenport Energies, an independently owned heating oil and propane gas dealer with 30 convenience stores. More recently he held management positions with Blossman Gas & Appliance, Heritage Propane, AmeriGas and Piedmont Propane Services. Additionally, Barker has served on the North Carolina Propane Gas Association Board of Directors.
Energy Distribution Partners welcomes Lloyd Pope as new general manager of Dassel's Propane reports BPN
Lloyd Pope has joined EDP as general manager for Dassel’s Petroleum (Hollister, Calif.). Pope has been involved with the propane industry for 38 years, having worked for Cal-Gas, Heritage, and Blue Star in a number of management and supervisory positions. He has served on the NPGA board of directors and is a past president of the Pacific Propane Gas Association.

Energy Distribution Partners welcome Joe Yates as New General Manager of WOC EnergyJoe Yates has joined EDP as general manager for WOC Energy (Towanda and Mansfield, Pa.). Since 1983, he has held many positions in the propane, fueloil, and HVAC industries. Yates was vice president and controller of Sinkler Inc. and later worked as a general manager and operations manager at Superior Plus Energy Services and Griffith Energy.

Frank Lane has joined RegO’s (Elon, N.C.) technical support teaRegO announces two new members of Techical Support team including Frank Lane reports BPN m as LPG technical advisor.
Lane has more than 30 years of experience in the propane and pressure vessel industry. Most recently, he was the assistant director of research and development/quality control for Manchester Tank and Equipment, where he was responsible for worldwide research and quality activities. He has also held positions at AmeriGas and Lane Butane Co. RegO is also pleased to welcome Cody Reeves who will take the position of Ed Miller, who is retiring after a 45-year industry career including the last 12 years as technical service specialist for RegO.   

ROUSH CleanTech (Livonia, Mich.) recently promoted Brian Carney to vice president of customer success, overseeing both ROUSH CleanTech and ROUSH Performance’s Customer Success divisions. Carney, who joined ROUSH CleanTech in 2010, created the Customer Success department two years ago. He has helped to build a center of customer excellence that has positioned the company as a leader in the industry and pushed its rapid growth.

Dylan Kyle has joined ROUSH CleanTech as commercial sales manager, to expand the adoption of propane autogas vehicles in commercial fleets. He previously managed sustainability projects for the health, safety, security, and environmental department for the Oiltanking Co.

ROUSH CleanTech’s newly named business development manager Adam Wilkum will focus on the alternative-fuel school bus market. As part of the public transportation industry for nearly 20 years, Wilkum has provided his expert level industry knowledge to some of the largest fleets in North America. He was previously with Thomas Built Bus, Cummins Inc., and Lion Electric, providing Tier 1 sales and support to both dealers and end users. Wilkum’s experience includes equipment specification guidance for competitive advantage, securing grant funding for clean energy projects, and providing technical education to both small and large groups.

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Remote Monitoring Leaders WESROC, DataOnline, Wikon, and iTank Combine as Anova

DataOnline, a leading global provider of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions, has announced the company has formally rebranded as Anova. The new brand incorporates DataOnline and its wholly-owned businesses, WESROC, Wikon, and iTank. These businesses have collaborated since coming together in 2018 and rebranding as Anova formalizes the relationship to optimize resources and enhance delivery of service to customers across the geographies and markets Anova serves.

Remote Monitoring Leaders DataOnline, WESROC, Wikon, and iTank Combine as Anova reports BPN the propane industry's leading source for news and info since 1939.“Uniting our operations under the Anova brand positions us as the global leader in IIoT across industrial gases, chemicals, oils, propane, water, and other sectors,” said Chet Reshamwala, CEO of Anova. “Now all our customers and partners know that, regardless of their business or region, they can turn to Anova for powerful remote monitoring solutions, more than 30 years of industry expertise and personalized service. In addition, a single
brand enables us to collaborate more efficiently with customers who span multiple end markets.”

The name Anova comes from “Analysis of Variance,” a type of statistical test used in scientific and industrial measurement, and it reflects everything the company provides to customers—data collection, insights, analysis, measurement, intelligent decision-making, and positive impact.

“The Anova brand represents a renewed commitment to innovation and global customer engagement,” said Reshamwala. “Our clients will also benefit from a consolidated engineering team that is better able to leverage our entire knowledge base to deliver innovations in critical areas such as improved battery life, emerging wireless technologies, mobile apps, and predictive maintenance.”

Anova will continue to use its legacy brands for industry-specific product lines over the coming year to ensure a smooth transition for customers.

This initiative follows a pivotal 2018, during which the company completed the acquisitions of Wikon, iTank, and Independent Technologies (owner of the WESROC brand), increasing its global footprint to more than 1000 customers in nearly 70 countries across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Over the last 12 months, the company has increased its headcount over five times to support its exponential growth in sales, data solutions, customer service and success, technical support, research and development, manufacturing, supply chain, and logistics.

Additional information can be found at www.anova.com.