INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Some Hoosier homeowners are beginning to feel the chilling effect of a propane shortage across the Midwest.
Pamela Porter of Muncie said she and her family ran out of the propane they use to heat their home Sunday morning.
Three days later, she’s still looking for help.
“Propane is our only source of heating our home,” she said. “We are currently using 10 space heaters in an attempt to prevent the water pipes from freezing.”
She said she contacted the company that supplies her propane but was told they didn’t have fuel available.
Steve McCoy, with McCoy’s LP Gas, said he can’t make complete propane deliveries to his customers because his tank is nearly empty itself.
“I’m able to get a little bit to them but the price is just outrageous,” he said.
McCoy said a new, full shipment to deliver to customers would have to come from hundreds of miles away and cost him $50-thousand dollars upfront – nearly triple what it normally costs. He said he simply can’t afford that.
“This is really hurting me because my son is the fourth generation here. And we’ve taken care of our customers for all these years and now I can’t,” he said. “And it just hurts.”
Porter said she doesn’t blame McCoy, but she’s frustrated with the shortage itself.
“We shouldn’t be in this position,” she said. “It’s not like there’s not enough propane. Its just there’s not enough here.”
About 500,000 Hoosiers use propane to heat their homes in Indiana.
The shortage is blamed on increased usage to dry grains at harvest time last fall, pipeline issues, and the extreme winter weather.
Gov. Mike Pence announced Wednesday he would extend relaxed restrictions on the number of hours truck drivers can be on the road hauling propane.
He also ordered an energy emergency to expedite the application process for permits for oversized loads hauling propane – to essentially let trucks get here as fast and as full as possible.
In a statement, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said an energy emergency allows his office to investigate consumer claims of price gouging and if violations are found, seek injunctive relief, consumer restitution and civil penalties.
“In the majority of instances, propane prices are being driven by substantial market forces. However, this emergency authority allows my office to thoroughly investigate price gouging complaints to determine if any violations exist,” Zoeller said. “If there is any evidence of consumers being taken advantage of during these already difficult times, my office will take action. Hoosiers should also know that we will continue to closely monitor the price of propane sold at all levels of the market.”
Pence also authorized another $5-million in low-income housing energy assistance funds normally set aside for the summer cooling season.
For eligibility, call 211.
Pence also urged farmers who used propane last Fall in effort to dry their grain – to check their tanks and consider giving it back to their supplier to make it available for those without.
“Take a walk out in the snow and look in that tank and if you’ve got some excess reserves, call your supplier. Credited back, sell it back. We are also calling on Hoosier homeowners and businesses to look for additional ways that they can practice conservation,” Pence said.