States respond to propane shortage

States respond to propane shortage

A shortage of propane across the Midwest is hiking up costs, prompting some states to declare a state of emergency.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, along with state and national propane officials, have responded with state dollars to help propane distributors and customers meet needs.

Walker declared a state of emergency due to the propane shortage. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton did the same for his state.

In Georgia, the governor issued an order prohibiting price gouging.

The shortage isn't completely due to Mother Nature, but the brutal winter hasn't helped.

"Because of the late, wet fall, it took more propane to dry things out before storing it for the winter. On top of that, in late November, we had a shutdown of a pipeline that didn't open until mid-December," explained Walker.

Demand is high and supply is really low, causing propane prices to shoot up from $2.20 a gallon three weeks ago, to more than $6 a gallon in some parts of the state.

"We've had people call up and say ‘I'm going to turn off the heat in my garage and the heat in my workshop,' hoping to help other people, I had one guy call in and tell me that he's no longer going to heat his plumbing shop because he's concerned about other people," said Chris Tewes with the Wisconsin Propane Gas Association.

Walker asked residents to work together to conserve propane.

He said a big problem is smaller distributors can't afford to pay the price up front now that it's become so expensive.

He's set aside $8 million to back loans small businesses might need to purchase the gas up front and another $8.5 million for low income consumers.

"As prices have gone up and as demand has gone up, that no one is in a position where they can't heat their home because of their financial situations," Walker said.

Tewes said loan backings will really help

"To the benefit to their suppliers to let our suppliers know that we have some backing and that's not going to be a road block for us," he explained.

Walker said times like these are when Wisconsin's true colors shine through.

"I think it's a good testament to the good will of the people of the state that when the chips are down, we get things done," he said.

The National Propane Gas Association said last week the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a regional order allowing transporters to move propane more freely.

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