Round 3: New Mexico’s Propane Retailers Scrambling to Meet New Regulations

New Mexico propane dealers have a list of new rules to follow, at an estimated cost of $10,000 a year, says one industry rep. (image: Mark Paulda via flickr.com)

One week ago, a new set of laws regulating the New Mexico propane trade went into effect. And a state rep for the industry says it’s been a rough seven days, writes the petroleum news site OpisNet.

The background: The state’s consumer rights commission drafted the rules at the end of November, responding to consumer requests for more oversight of their propane bills. The laws went into effect Dec. 15.

Complying with the new regulations on short notice has left the state’s 80 retailers scrambling, reports OpisNet.

Under the new law, propane dealers must “provide customers with clear, accurate, and timely prices and charges.” In practice, that means giving customers a full breakdown on their different price categories.

But it’s not always apples to apples with propane prices, says Baron Glassgow, speaking for the New Mexico Propane Gas Association. He lists several factors that could affect a propane bill, even between neighbors: the volume of the order, the number of annual deliveries, variable budget plans, and cash-on-delivery or automatic delivery service. Putting together such a pricing report would be challenging, he said.

Another provision requires retailers to give their customers a pamphlet on the new laws. But the English-language version is in short supply, and a Spanish-language version has yet to materialize.

Glassgow estimates that complying with the regulations will cost dealers $10,000 a year, which will be passed on to consumers. Meantime, the industry is expected to appeal parts of the law.

However it plays out, the industry will surely be watching. Only a handful of states regulate the propane trade, and as other states consider more oversight, New Mexico will serve as a test case for the showdown between regulators and retailers — for better or worse.

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