Lebanon school officials taking steps to conserve during propane shortage

(WISH Photo, file)

LEBANON, Ind. (WISH) – The shortage of propane in the Midwest is affecting Hoosier households and some schools who rely on propane for heat.

Lebanon Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor says Perry Worth Elementary School is the only school in his district to rely on propane.

They’ve got a third of the tank left, which should last them three weeks.

But, being proactive, they will start taking steps to conserve propane on Wednesday.

Taylor wrote a letter to parents Monday, explaining the situation.

He told parents that on Friday, they weren’t able to locate additional propane supplies, and suppliers weren’t able to give them a date that they could expect more fuel to be delivered.

He said the propane tank at the school holds 18,000 gallons of fuel. They use between 350 and 400 gallons a day. Right now, they have about 6,000 gallons left.

“The concern was not so much the level that we currently have, but the apparent lack of fuel that we could buy to replace what we have,” explained Taylor.

Taylor said they’d move the elementary school’s before and after daycare to a different elementary school – and will bus the students to and from Perry Worth.

They’re also cancelling all after-school activities so they can lower the temperature when students aren’t there.

They’re planning to keep the school at the normal, comfortable temperature during the day when students are there.

“During the daytime, you won’t notice a lot of difference. Our primary goal was to make sure that learning could continue and that there would be no disruption and no discomfort,” said Perry Worth Principal Amber Targgart.

Officials are asking anyone using propane across the state to conserve, as well.

“I’ve talked to members that have been in the business 40 years, and nobody has seen it this bad,” said Scot Imus, Executive Director of the Indiana Propane Gas Association.

Imus says the problem of getting propane to the Midwest is a “perfect storm” of four factors: an increased usage by farmers in the fall to dry crops, pipeline issues also in 2013, extreme winter weather and increased propane exports.

“The industry is going through incredible lengths to get products,” said Imus.

He said Indiana distributors are driving now sometimes thousands of miles – just to get one load.

“It’s not uncommon now for Indiana propane companies to send trucks to Kansas… Mississippi… or Texas,” he explained.

Imus says prices are also jumping exponentially because of that.

Lebanon’s Superintendent says they would like to purchase 9,000 gallons of propane right now.

He says that typically would cost them about $12,000. Now – they’re getting quotes of $50,000.

Imus says they’re asking all propane users to conserve.

He says as temperatures get warmer, demand for propane will lessen, and they should be able to catch up.

Governor Mike Pence has extended an emergency proclamation waiving statutes that limit the hours of service for propane transporters, in order to help suppliers meet demands.

That will remain in effect until Jan. 31.

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