Attorney general offers help for Hoosiers dealing with propane shortage

INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 5, 2014) – Several Hoosiers have been hit by the Midwest’s propane shortage, and now the state attorney general is offering his help.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller says his office has received 290 complaints about the propane supply since Dec. 16.

One of the biggest problems has been customers who’ve had trouble contacting their supplier or can’t find an alternative one. Zoeller encourages Hoosiers whose propane tank supply is 10 percent or less to call 1-800-382-5516. Zoeller and his staff are ready to reach out to suppliers on the customer’s behalf, especially with extremely cold weather back in the forecast.

The attorney general’s office is also working with the Indiana Propane Gas Association to keep a pulse on the propane supply and ensure that customers are being treated fairly.

Customers usually have to get written authorization from propane suppliers in order to allow another one to service their tank, but the attorney general says there are exceptions. State law lets customers bypass the requirement in the event of a weather emergency or if suppliers fail or can’t deliver on time.

Many suppliers are working together, Zoeller said, but there are times when suppliers are unable to work with customers or competitors to make a delivery. Zoeller said it’s important that no one is left without a heating source as bitterly cold weather settles in. His office will investigate priorities and help customers find a supplier.

An energy emergency was declared on Jan. 28, giving the attorney general’s office the power to investigate claims of price gouging. The office can also levy penalties if any wrongdoing is discovered. The office can’t help negotiate the price of propane, Zoeller said, although his staff is monitoring market prices.

Tuesday, Gov. Mike Pence joined fellow governors from the Midwestern Governors Association in signing a letter to President Barack Obama requesting federal action in response to the Midwest’s propane shortage.

“We come out periodically and keep checking on it to see how much we still have,” said Noblesville resident Linda Velis, who recently moved from Texas. “When we had that freeze, we were running it constantly… we ran out of our propane really quick.”

“It’s everywhere all around, everyone’s suffering,” said Nancy Chance, the executive director for an organization called the Good Samaritan Network. “They’re finding these bills and they can’t pay them and they can’t fill their tank unless they pay their bills.”

And that’s why Nancy’s group has been helping people like Linda get more propane – 150 gallons to help along the way.

“If it wasn’t for her, we would not have the heat in the house right now,” Velis said.

Still, Linda worries if 150 gallons will really do the trick, with more cold weather on the way.

“I don’t know if it will get us through, if it continues like this,” said Velis.

You can find more information about how to help the Good Samaritan Network on the group’s web site.

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