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Extreme cold, burst pipeline threaten heating-fuel supplies

Heat-assistance requests spike; propane demand outpacing supply; Minnesota Orchestra wins Grammy;  lawyer says Kluwe has evidence; state launching Super Bowl bid; and more.

This cold and school-less thing is getting old … and expensive. The AP story on the latest outbreak and shutdown says: “Temperatures will remain in the grips of the deep freeze for two and a half days, said meteorologist Mike Hudson of the National Weather Service in Kansas City, Mo. It will be similar to what happened earlier this month when temperatures dropped quickly and stayed low for days when a piece of the polar vortex — winds that circulate around the North Pole — ‘broke off and moved south,’ Hudson said.

Oh yeah, and don’t use so much gas, OK? Aimee Blanchette of the Strib says: “Even as temperatures plunged Sunday, Xcel Energy asked all customers, including in the Twin Cities, to cut back on natural gas use in the wake of Saturday’s pipeline blast near Winnipeg. One pipeline ruptured and two others were damaged and removed from service. Those lines provide the main supply of natural gas to more than 100,000 Xcel Energy customers in northwestern Minnesota, eastern North Dakota and western Wisconsin.”

Related … Pam Louwagie of the Strib says: “As winter keeps an enduring, ferocious grip on Minnesota and much of the nation, the price of propane is jumping and all types of furnaces are running extra hard, putting residents like [78 year-old retiree Ron] Selleck on the brink of freezing pipes and financial disaster. Administrators of government heat-assistance programs and nonprofits are seeing a spike in requests for help. Propane suppliers already are rationing supplies and natural gas users began feeling the pinch Sunday.”

At MPR, Jon Collins says: “An analysis this week from the U.S. Energy Information Administration said propane demand has outpaced supply in the Midwest as temperatures fell … [Lakes Gas Co.]  Vice President Steve Sargeant said prices have increased from their typical level of about $1.20 a unit to about $5. And they’re still going up. ‘This is unforeseen, we’ve been in business for over 54 years and at no time has the depth of the supply been restricted at the level it is now,’ Sargeant said.” If we find out some Enron-style commodity traders are jacking with this …

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Osmo didn’t get to strut like Pink or Katy Perry, but he and the band were winners. Jon Bream of the Strib says: “After settling a bitter lockout of musicians two weeks ago, the Minnesota Orchestra found a reason to smile Sunday: its first Grammy for best orchestral performance. Neither conductor Osmo Vänskä nor any orchestra representative was in Los Angeles to pick up the prize for ‘Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4,’ presented in the pre-telecast portion of the Grammys.”

Chris Kluwe might be on solid footing … Ben Goessling of ESPN reports: “The attorney for former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe said his client first approached the team last May about special teams coordinator Mike Priefer’s alleged homophobic comments, and that Kluwe has text messages from kicker Blair Walsh corroborating those allegations.”

The GleanTo be coordinated with the Vikings’ first Super Bowl victory … KARE-TV says: “Gov. Mark Dayton and a coalition of Minnesota business and community leaders will announce the state’s bid to bring the Super Bowl to Minnesota. A news conference will be held at the Minnesota State Capitol on Monday at 11 a.m. New Orleans, Indianapolis and Minneapolis are the three finalists to host the NFL championship game in 2018.”

In a commentary, DFL Sen. Matt Schmitt makes a case for (much) improved rural broadband service: “Since November I’ve met with nearly 20 communities around the state interested in improving broadband connectivity for their residents, businesses, schools, libraries and hospitals. The findings have been clear: … Despite the best efforts of our local providers and cooperatives, poor broadband connectivity remains a real problem in many parts of the state. … The 2014 legislative session presents us with a timely opportunity: let’s use this ‘unsession’ to rewrite key provisions of our telecom law.”

Meanwhile, still more from a guy who really needs to chill … Dave Phelps of the Strib reports on Tom Petters: “Representing himself with the assistance of a fellow inmate in the role of ‘jailhouse lawyer,’ Petters has peppered the court with documents seeking to set aside his current 50-year sentence for a shorter one. In his most recent filings last week, Petters requested to be released from Leavenworth on bail pending a ruling on his motions.” Heck, I could rule on that motion.