Chellie Pingree is calling on the Energy Department and Federal Trade Commission to investigate alleged propane propaganda.
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree speaks in Portland on Nov. 8, 2022. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

A version of this article was originally published in The Daily Brief, our Maine politics newsletter. Sign up here for daily news and insight from politics editor Michael Shepherd.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree called this week for a federal investigation in response to a New York Times story finding a propane industry group has used sales fees to combat government efforts to move away from oil and gas.

The story: The Propane Education and Research Council is expected to spend $13 million on its anti-electrification campaign in 2023, the newspaper reported, including $600,000 to influencers like HGTV’s Matt Blashaw. Some of the money comes from fees on sales that are supposed to go to the federally sanctioned trade group to fund research and marketing.

On a TV segment, Blashaw said his vision of winter was cooking with his family and being by a roaring fire, two things possible with propane, which he called “an energy source for everyone.”

Key quote: “This disingenuous campaign has dire consequences for states like mine,” she wrote in a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan, saying this use of the sales fees may violate the law. “Mainers face long, rough winters where cost-effective heating is essential.”

Maine’s landscape: Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and her Republican predecessor and 2022 rival, Paul LePage, have been advocates for electric heat pumps. They are now the subject of state and federal incentive programs, but Maine remains the state most dependent on heating fuel despite considerable progress in shifting away from it in the last decade.

Propane is a bigger part of the energy mix here than in most other states, particularly because natural gas is not widely available here. Natural gas stoves have been in the news recently after a U.S. safety official said they should be regulated because of links to asthma and cardiovascular disease. Propane may also be harmful, though it has lower emissions.

Hear both sides: The paid advocates “use and specify propane in their construction projects and are very familiar with propane’s advantages,” a spokesperson for the Propane Education and Research Council told the Times.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...