Propane Dealers Told to Fill Competitors’ Tanks

Concerns about propane supply problems following unseasonable Autumn snow storms have sparked emergency orders by Governor Malloy affecting propane retailers in Connecticut. (image: examiner.com)

Connecticut state officials have warned propane dealers they could be in breach of antitrust laws for failing to refill competitors’ tanks, ctwatchdog.com reports.

Governor Dannel.P.Malloy signed an executive order earlier this month designed to ensure households could get access to propane gas in the aftermath of unseasonable autumn snow storms.

The order temporarily suspended a state regulation that prohibits the refueling of a propane tank by anyone other than the company that owns it.

Most tanks are owned by the homeowner’s gas distributer. But the emergency order means even direct competitors of that distributer can now provide tank refills to prevent residents being left without gas during the unseasonal conditions. Some Connecticut households had encountered problems securing gas supply in recent weeks, sparking the order by Governor Malloy.

“While we recover from the impact of this rare autumn snowstorm, it is pressing that we ensure people have the ability to heat their homes safely,” he said. “Temporarily suspending this state regulation will allow residents who need their tanks refilled to do so more easily.”

However, Attorney General George Jepsen this week warned the Propane Gas Association of New England (PGANE) propane dealers could be in breach of the law if they failed to abide by the emergency rule. The concerns apparently followed “correspondence the association sent to its members that discouraged them from filling the gas tanks of competitors,” the ctwatchdog.com reported.

“This Office has concerns that your communication may have been designed to encourage or facilitate a group boycott or concerted refusal to deal among horizontal competitors in violation of the Connecticut Antitrust Act,” Jepsen wrote to the PGANE.

He asked association officials to distribute his letter to its membership to ensure propane dealers met the order’s requirements.