FERC on Tuesday extended by one week the priority treatment of propane shipments to consumers in the Midwest and Northeast.

Saying the decision “came in response to an agreement reached Feb. 10 [Monday] between Enterprise TE Products Pipeline Co. LLC and the National Propane Gas Association,” commissioners voted to continue propane shipments through Feb. 21.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission invoked its emergency authority Friday under the Interstate Commerce Act to help alleviate “dangerously low” propane supplies in the Midwest and Northeast (see Daily GPI, Feb. 10). The order directed Enterprise to temporarily provide priority treatment to propane shipments from Mont Belvieu, TX, to the Midwest and Northeast regions, which are suffering from severe cold weather (see Daily GPI, Feb. 6a).

It was the first time FERC had used its emergency authority under Section 1(15) of the Act, which states that whenever the Commission believes an emergency requiring immediate action exists in any section of the country, it has authority to give directions for preference or priority in transportation, embargoes or movement of traffic.

The National Propane Gas Association urged FERC to act last Thursday because it takes two to three weeks for propane to travel from Mont Belvieu to storage facilities in the Midwest and Northeast via Enterprise TE. The organization said additional supplies had to begin flowing immediately to avoid critical shortages at the end of this month.

The current shortage is a result of numerous factors. Most directly, severe winter weather in December and January followed immediately after a strong crop-drying season (see Daily GPI, Jan. 30).

There is little relief from unusually cold weather in the Midwest and Northeast. Forecasters expect a winter storm that was moving across the South on Tuesday to swing through the MidAtlantic and into New England by week’s end. The storm is expected to bring frigid temperatures and as much as a foot of snow to parts of the eastern United States.

“In some areas from parts of Virginia, northeastward to New England, it may seem like a blizzard at times,” according to AccuWeather.com meteorologist Henry Margusity.

Already this winter, multiple polar vortices have driven the number of recorded heating degree days to unusual highs, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data (see Daily GPI, Feb. 6b). And the 2013-2014 chill is far from over. The Northeast, North Central and lower Mississippi Valley can expect unusually cold temperatures to continue through most of the next three months, according to forecasters at Weather Services International (WSI) (see Daily GPI, Feb. 4). The Northeast is likely to have colder-than-normal temperatures as late as April, WSI said.