Early in June, propane marketers and leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., to attend the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) summer board of directors meeting and annual Propane Days.
Every year, the industry assembles in Washington to hear important updates and make a collective effort to promote the financial and environmental benefits of propane as a fuel source to members of Congress and their staff. This year, participants focused on key issues such as gas bans and opportune bills being reauthorized later this year. Special attention was given to two bills voted on during the event: the Gas Stove Protection and Freedom Act and the Save Our Gas Stoves Act.
Key Takeaways From the Board of Directors Meeting
At this year’s meeting, NPGA Chair Michelle Bimson Maggi welcomed attendees and recognized NPGA members with unique awards, ranging from the “awesome” award to the “courageous leader” award.
This meeting marked the end of Bimson Maggi’s historic term as the first woman to serve as NPGA chair. Contemplating her tenure and her role going forward, Bimson Maggi remained optimistic: “I am excited to see where new leadership will take the industry and simply hope I can contribute in any way needed,” she said. “It is hard to believe that it was only a year ago I was sworn in as the first female chairperson … What I remember from this past year is the people and the various moments that I saw what we were made of.”
Jeff Stewart succeeds Bimson Maggi as chair. With an eye fixed on the issues facing the industry, Stewart continues to expect conventional propane to play a key role in the energy sector while calling on industry leaders to be mindful of new opportunities ahead.
“We must all — big or small — have a plan of how each company will move forward and advance to meet the future energy needs of this country,” said Stewart. “We must grow to this market in absolute terms, with new products — not just steal business from each other. We must be more aggressive and get more comfortable with venturing out of the historical comfort zone this wonderful industry has provided us. We must get uncomfortable.”
Thomas Van Buren will move into the role of chair-elect, with Mike Hopsicker taking over as vice chair and D.D. Alexander as the association’s treasurer.
Propane Days Hopes & Challenges
“We don’t talk about what propane is, we talk about what propane does.” That was the advice NPGA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Michael Baker gave to attendees at the Propane Days legislative briefing, just prior to a day filled with more than 200 strategic meetings between propane marketers and congressional representatives.
The opportunity to sit down in person with the members and staff of Congress came after three years of COVID-19 precautions that made such meetings impossible. When considering what impact members of the propane industry can have in the complicated, often turbulent environment of Congress, the advice from board leadership remained simple: Focus on what you do as a propane businessperson and tell the story of how propane has improved the lives of your customers.
However, telling this story is often challenging, especially in light of current campaigns against propane as a fuel source. Steve Kaminski, president and CEO of NPGA, outlined several of the larger threats currently looming over the industry. He zeroed in on current gas bans.
“There are about 100 municipalities that have banned gas in some way,” Kaminski noted. “A number of states are looking to do things that would have a similar impact. Everything from furnaces, to water heaters, to cooktops. We are pushing back hard on multiple rulemakings before several federal agencies and are collaborating with state propane gas associations on state and local initiatives that impinge upon energy choice.”
The journey to change public opinion on the environmental and financial benefits of propane remains an uphill battle. Amid national and local efforts to restrict propane products, however, there are signs of progress in the push for propane as a cost-efficient and clean energy source. “We have energy choice law now passed in 24 states in the country protecting 41% of all gallons sold in the United States,” said Kaminski. Energy choice law is legislation prohibiting local municipalities from banning energy sources such as gas. “Sustainable decarbonization is best achieved through a multi-pronged approach that includes low carbon energy molecules that are produced from conventional and renewable sources. Such an approach would take into consideration the reliability and resilience of various energy options, as well as the aggregate costs passed along to energy consumers.”
Continuing the Message
Promoting propane in the public sphere is not only for legal experts. This year’s Propane Days included many attendees with a variety of roles and titles in the industry, each with their own unique part to play in advocating for this clean energy source.
Don Montroy, vice president of marketing at Bergquist Inc., was a first-time attendee at the conference.
“I heard this year’s Propane Days had more legislative appointments than any previous event,” said Montroy. “That’s a testament to all the hard work our industry associations do. Now it’s up to us as members to be even more active and continue our unified message on the reliability and sustainability of propane with everyone that will listen — all year long.”
As leading planners and thinkers in this industry continue to develop ways to rise above current and future obstacles, every member can tell the compelling story of propane as a clean, effective fuel source.