Governor Pence, Lt. Governor Ellspermann Take Action to Assist Hoosiers with Propane Shortage
Transportation restrictions eased, State energy assistance program increased
FREE PRESS REPORT
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA (NEWS) - Governor Mike Pence and Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann today announced a number of measures to help Hoosier families and businesses cope with the propane shortage caused in part by recent extreme winter weather.
To assist propane suppliers in meeting the needs of Hoosiers, Governor Pence has again extended an emergency proclamation (attached) to waive propane transport statutes until March 1, 2014. The Governor first issued the order on January 3, and thenextended the order to January 31, 2014.
Governor Pence today also signed Executive Order 14-02 (attached) declaring an energy emergency and suspending limitations on divisible loads for propane carriers. In addition, he instructed the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and the Department of Revenue (DOR) to expedite permit applications and waive any fees for overweight and oversize loads for propane suppliers. For public safety reasons, drivers of overweight and oversize propane loads should provide route information, as well as truck weight, size and configuration to the DOR by calling 317-615-7234.
“Hoosier homeowners, businesses and the farming community are facing propane shortages and unrelenting temperatures, and the State continues to exhaust all possible options to alleviate the impact of this crisis,” said Pence. “As in the past, the compassionate nature of Hoosiers is evident, and I urge all to be mindful of their propane usage, and I ask those who might have a surplus to help their neighbors in need.”
Nearly ten percent of Indiana residents use propane for residential heating. To assist low-income Hoosiers with their energy needs, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) today released an additional $5 million in funds to local service providers who cover all 92 counties. In addition, the state increased the LIHEAP crisis benefit from $400 to $550 through March 31, 2014. Hoosiers who are at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level (roughly $35,00 a year for a family of four) who are interested in the program can call LIHEAP at 1-800-872-0371 or the United Way at 211 for more information.
“Again, we see Hoosiers coming together to address a potentially life threatening situation,” said Lt. Governor Ellspermann. “The Governor has implemented the emergency steps to facilitate distribution and delivery of propane. We are asking farmers and others to voluntarily make excess supplies of propane available to others. Further, we are increasing energy assistance dollars available to low income Hoosiers facing escalating propane use. With this cooperation we will minimize the impact of this shortage on residents, agriculture, and businesses.”
Across the state, the commercial grain industry and farmers are stepping up to return any propane left over from the grain drying season to their suppliers to help ease the limited supply. The Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc., the Indiana Soybean Alliance, and the Indiana Corn Growers Association have called on their members to check stocks, and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) also has communicated with the commercial grain industry, asking for a recheck on stocks that might be available for resale.
Hoosiers who have a surplus and wish to provide assistance are asked to contact their local propane supplier.
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.”
Under Indiana law (IC 4-6-9.1), price gouging occurs when a consumer is charged an “unconscionable amount” for the sale of fuel. For example, if the amount charged grossly exceeds the average price of fuel during the seven days before the emergency was declared or if the amount is not attributable to cost factors to the retailer.
Since Dec. 16, the Attorney General’s office has received 23 consumer complaints related to the propane shortage and 21 of those are concerning the high prices.
Hoosiers who want to report suspected price gouging can do so by calling the Attorney General’s Office hotline toll-free at 1-866-241-9753 or visitingwww.IndianaConsumer.com.