New York Has A Propane Container Law

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The New York Propane Gas Association (nypropane.com) announced recently that the state now has a propane tank “container law” on the books, reports Shane Sweet:

For those who have not followed this process, NYPGA has been pursuing the passage of a container law for the better part of 10 years.

Lawmakers in New York twice passed container law legislation, twice sent it to the governor for signature, and twice it was vetoed by then-Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The irony here is that the passage of the container law grew from a so-called “propane emergencies” bill stemming from a January 2018 incident involving a propane customer near Albany. Reporting by the New York media added steam and urgency to an issue that could have been mitigated immediately. Instead, the propane industry was essentially pronounced guilty and sent to the proverbial legislative gallows, post-haste.

Worse, the original legislation allowed an “emergency” to be declared by pretty much anyone. Naturally, that ambiguity was of great concern to propane marketers in New York at the time.

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It was a classic case of a solution looking for a problem. 

The original propane emergencies bill was ostensibly proposed to allow for protection of consumers in cases where a customer’s supplier was unable to deliver to the customer (for any reason). It would have allowedanother supplier to deliver to the customer’s tank.  

The only problem was, there was nothing on the books in New York to stop Propane Company A from delivering propane to a tank owned by Propane Company B.

Yes, you read that right: The law proposed a fix for a problem that legislatively and regulatorily speaking did not exist in New York at the time. The proposed legislation would have “allowed” a propane company to deliver propane to a tank owned by another supplier.

Permission given where none was needed. Right.

The fact that New York had nothing resembling a container law at the time was apparently lost on the lawmaker who proposed the law in the first place, notwithstanding the propane industry’s countless attempts to explain this to him. In fact, the lawmaker in question would not take a meeting with the propane industry, and never did. Needless to say, certain lawmakers milked the issue for everything it was worth, and considerable gaslighting (no pun intended) ensued.

The result was a draconian bill sponsored by an activist lawmaker not long after the original January 2018 event, and nearly four years later, in 2022, an amended version of the “propane emergency fill bill” passed both houses of the legislature in New York.

The original version was ill-conceived and fraught with liability problems. However, in 2022 NYPGA managed to get the attention of the (new) governor’s office, explained its liability concerns, and proposed wording for a “chapter amendment” that mitigated the liability issues, and lastly, provide the industry the added protection of a container law when an emergency situation is not in effect.

In December, 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul agreed to sign the bill, provided certain amendments were passed to address the liability problems. 

Those amendments were introduced early in the legislative session, both houses passed them, and on December 8, 2022, the governor signed the propane emergencies legislation and its embedded container law. The law applies only to propane residential customers.

Shane Sweet is the Principal of Shane Sweet LLC, a Florida-based energy consulting firm to the propane, heating oil and motor fuel sectors. The company represents products and services, and works with trade associations. In 2020 Sweet co-founded VirtualPropaneExpo. com and in 2021 he co-founded propaneandoiltraining.com with colleague Mike Digiorgio. He also consults with Subject Matter Experts on regulatory compliance for legal actions involving propane. In addition to 15 years in the retail oil and propane business, Sweet served as the primary executive for the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, the New England Fuel Institute (now the National Energy & Fuels Institute) and the New York Propane Gas Association. Sweet can be reached at shanesweet@shanesweet.com.

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