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State offers to help Indiana propane users find fuel

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 6:08 pm

INDIANAPOLIS — The state has offered to assist Indiana propane users facing drastically low supplies to fill their tanks as temperatures hover near or below zero.

The Indiana Attorney General's office said in a Wednesday news release that it would assist consumers whose propane supply is 10 percent or lower and either have trouble contacting their supplier or can't find an alternative supplier.

"The extreme winter conditions and market forces have created substantial problems for Hoosiers who are trying to keep their families warm, but also for the industry trying to meet the needs of their customers," Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in the statement. "My office is offering to help customers by following up with their propane provider to mediate delivery issues or by ensuring another provider can be a source of temporary supply, if needed."

An estimated 500,000 Indiana residents, mostly in rural areas, rely on propane to heat their homes. The U.S. Energy Information Association says the average price for a gallon of propane in Indiana soared during January from $2.96 to more than $4.

Many propane suppliers work with their competitors during weather emergencies to make sure customers are not left without a heating source, the statement said.

"Indiana propane marketers have been taking extraordinary measures to ensure their customers are being served during this nationwide crisis," said Scot Imus, executive director of the Indiana Propane Gas Association, adding that the trade organization is working with the state. The Associated Press left a phone message Thursday seeking additional comment.

Since Dec. 16, the Attorney General's office said it has received 290 consumer complaints related to the propane shortage.

It also has the power to investigate consumer claims of price gouging.

Gov. Mike Pence last week was one of several governors who wrote to President Barack Obama this week urging him to consider regulatory waivers aimed at increasing supplies and easing loan requirements to help communities respond to the shortage. Other governors have ordered investigations into suspected price manipulation.

Pence has asked farmers and other propane users to return unused portions to suppliers.

National supplies of propane were depleted by a late harvest that increased demand from farmers who needed to dry an unusually large amount of grain before storage. As colder-than-normal temperatures spread across much of the country, supplies dropped to the lowest level ever during the second week of January.