Propane Industry Weighs In On Utility Proceedings

“Even though propane is not a traditional regulated utility, commission decisions still have a large impact on our industry,” Jacob Peterson, manager, state engagement for the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA), told BPN. “DecNational Propane Gas Assoc Monitoring US Dockets tracking natural gas expansion projects reports BPNisions that promote other energy sources, such as natural gas or electricity, to the detriment of propane, hurt our market share and limit opportunities to grow gallons.”

NPGA has been actively monitoring utility proceedings across the country, according to Jeff Petrash, NPGA’s vice president and general counsel. Petrash told BPN that Peterson, who joined NPGA in 2018, has been spearheading the process of monitoring dockets across the country. “Jacob has developed a system to look for cases that involve natural gas line extension policies, subsidized gas expansion projects, and transportation electrification—specifically the process of requiring non-electric vehicle (EV) drivers to pay for the operation of public EV charging stations, and other issues that affect propane’s market share.”

“We locate problematic dockets and work with state and regional associations to determine the best course of action to fight back against harmful ones,” Peterson said. “These actions include submitting official comments, intervening in utility proceedings, and engaging with commissioners and their staff. We want utility commissions to realize that the propane industry has a stake in the outcome of these cases.”

Here are cases in four states that have recently landed on Peterson’s radar:

Colorado: A private utility submitted its 2021-2023 transportation electrification plan to the commission for evaluation. It includes a provision that, if approved, would allow it to own and operate public EV charging stations throughout its service territory.

Idaho: A private utility is proposing to revise the policies that govern its extension of natural gas mains and service lines. These rules will dictate how the utility can extend its gas delivery infrastructure to new customers and, importantly, who bears what cost in that process.

Minnesota: A private utility is seeking permission to levy a natural gas extension project (NGEP) rider on all of its captive ratepayers to help finance the extension of gas service to new customers in an underserved part of the state. The NGEP rider was created by the legislature in 2015 to help facilitate the expansion of gas service to new areas of Minnesota.

Virginia: The State Corporation Commission opened an investigation into transportation electrification to determine how it could potentially impact the affordability and reliability of the electric service provided to consumers. The Commission will study electric vehicles (EVs) and decide what is the proper role, if any, of utility investment in the deployment of public EV charging stations.

“NPGA utilizes a digital platform to track utility proceedings in all 50 states,” Peterson said. “Once we find a potentially problematic docket, we engage with our state partners to determine what, if any, action should be taken. How the industry responds to any particular case depends on the unique circumstances in that docket.”

This utility tracking program began in earnest in January 2019, according to Peterson. “To be effective, we must continue to get utility commissions to understand that their actions impact not only ratepayers, but competing energy industries (particularly propane) as well.” — Pat Thornton