A proposal aimed at fixing propane gas delivery problems that affected dozens of Sebago Lake-area homeowners during the record-breaking cold spell is making its way through the Legislature.

The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, would change a current law to allow propane companies during declared weather emergencies to fill tanks that do not belong to them without incurring liability. Diamond said that during a prolonged cold spell, the measure would allow propane companies to step in for one another to ensure that no one suffers from the cold.

Diamond came up with the proposal after he received dozens of complaints from constituents in his district who were unable to find a propane company willing to fill their tanks if the company didn’t own the tanks.

“It has been a major issue. People were worried and scared and didn’t know where to turn,” Diamond said.

The propane delivery problem was especially felt by “will call” customers, those who don’t have automatic refill service. The cold spell also caused delivery problems for “will call” home heating oil customers served by small independent retailers who couldn’t keep up with the demand.

Diamond said the propane delivery problem was not confined to a single company but was widespread. It was caused by the liability faced by companies that fill propane tanks owned by another company. Companies will not fill tanks they do not own unless they conduct lengthy safety checks of the customer’s propane heating system. With pent-up demand for propane during the cold spell, companies did not have the manpower to conduct the checks.

Diamond’s proposal would allow companies to reach written agreements between themselves that would limit the liability a company would face if it filled a propane tank it didn’t own.

Jamie Py, president and chief executive officer of the Maine Energy Marketers Association, said Diamond’s proposal is a good idea, although the pent-up demand for home heating fuel eased after temperatures moderated last week.

“In an emergency situation it could come in handy. It is a practical way to address the problem,” Py said.

Diamond is hoping to fast-track the bill, which has no legislative number or final language yet. He is aiming to have the bill heard by the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology this week and get it to a vote the following week.

Demand for home heating fuel should also continue to even out this week. Temperatures, which took another plunge to below zero Saturday night and were expected to drop to minus 20 in the north and west on Sunday night, should head back up to normal ranges Monday, said John Cannon, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Gray.

By next weekend, temperatures could reach into the 40s and possibly higher, Cannon said.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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