By Stephen Bennett
Michael Hopsicker, president of Ray Murray Inc., took on the role of president of the New York Propane Gas Association at the group’s Spring Meeting, held at The Desmond in Albany, N.Y., March 28-29. Ray Murray Inc. is headquartered in Lee, Mass., but it has operations in New York State. Hopsicker succeeds Rick Cummings of Mulhern Gas Co. in Hudson, N.Y.
Attendees numbered 207, a robust figure, reported Shane Sweet, executive and technical director of the NYPGA. Online marketing was the subject of a presentation by Ben Gutkin, vice president, marketing services for Warm Thoughts Communications, a marketing company based in Clifton, N.J., and jurisdictional propane accounts were the subject of a talk by Ed Anderson of LP-Gas Training & Consulting, Keene, N.H., that drew an attentive audience, Sweet said. Before that, Roger Rosenbaum of Brand News Team, Rhinebeck, N.Y., piloted a drone around the conference room at The Desmond, and played a promotional video that he had produced, using a camera mounted on the drone, for Mulhern Gas in Hudson, N.Y.
Greg Burns, director of channel development for Renew Financial, based in Allentown, Pa., explained how the company, through a public/private partnership, helps homeowners and contractors in New York State by providing fixed, low-interest loans for projects including emergency HVAC replacements and comprehensive home efficiency retrofits.
Burns offered the example of a homeowner in need of financing for an $8,000 heating equipment installation, a sum that Burns said fell into a financing “twilight zone” between $1,000 and $25,000—“too big for a credit card, too small for a home equity loan.” The public/private partnership between Renew Financial and the State of New York, called ReHome New York, targets that range of financing so that consumers can pay for such improvements, which in turn helps support local contractors, Burns said. For more on ReHome New York, visit the website rehomenewyork.com.
Renew Financial has similar private/public partnerships in other states as well. For more information visit the website renewfinancial.com.
Charlie Ory, chairman of the National Propane Gas Association, said in a speech that the NPGA had scored legislative victories.
“We’re proudest of PERC’s enhancement act, which allows us to get back to promoting consumer education through PERC,” Ory told Fuel Oil News in a phone interview a few days after the after the meeting. PERC is the Propane Education & Research Council, based in Washington, D.C.
Further, “in a temporary transportation bill we got a permanent decrease on the motor fuel excise tax so that now propane and gasoline are taxed equivalently,” Ory said. “That was a terrific win.”
Another high point: “We were able to shepherd through a fifty-cent-a-gallon rebate for tax year 2015,” Ory said. (The rebate will be reduced in tax year 2016 in line with the reduced taxes). Along with the fifty-cent-per-gallon rebate, Ory said, “We also got the infrastructure tax credit,” which he said would help NPGA members expand the motor fuel business.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission responded favorably to the association’s lobbying on indexing for pipelines, which sets rates for the next five years. “We were very, very thankful” that FERC sided with our position,” Ory said, “so we have a lower index fee.” The lower fee will probably save the association’s members “somewhere in the neighborhood of $190 million to $240 million dollars a year for the next five years, depending on how much propane flows through the pipeline,” Ory said.
Eighteen months ago, in the fall of 2014, the national association made a change in its tactical approach. “We put in a team, headed by Lesley Garland, on state engagement,” Ory said. Garland, the former president and CEO of the Western Propane Gas Association, was hired as the national association’s director of state affairs, responsible for identifying state legislative and regulatory issues and developing responses. “We recognize that a lot of the legislative activity is now taking place at the state level,” Ory said, “and we’re trying as best we can to monitor legislation in all fifty states.” As a follow-up, Ory said, “We have set aside a $500,000 kitty to aid states in fighting natural gas expansion.
“Basically, we’re against uneconomic expansion where either the ratepayer or the taxpayer is being asked to subsidize capital expenditure,” Ory said, citing efforts by natural gas companies to do just that in Illinois, Michigan and New York. “It shouldn’t be done especially in light of a Department of Energy estimate that “$270 billion worth of repair work is needed on the existing natural gas infrastructure.” That figure was published in April 2015 by the DOE in “Transforming U.S. Energy Infrastructures in a Time of Rapid Change,” the first installment of its Quadrennial Energy Review of Transmission, Storage and Distribution Infrastructure.