Cold Concerns: Energy Emergency Due to Propane Shortage

SEVILLE, Ohio–Just in time for another brutally cold winter, Ohio has joined other states in which customers who heat their homes with propane are being told that the fuel is in short supply.

Debbie Ponader and her husband say were warned by their supplier when they filled their tank in late December.

“They were telling us to conserve because there is going to be a shortage of propane so, they said this is your tank but should you need another refill and the supplies aren’t there, it might be difficult to fill your tank,” said Ponader.

Heeding the advice, Ponader said she turned the thermostats in her house down from 72 to 68.

But she said news of a propane shortage was surprising to her.

“We have lived here for 12 years and this is the first time we have ever heard that so it was kind of a shock,” said Ponader.

The short supply of propane has prompted Ohio Governor John Kasich to declare an energy emergency.

Kasich is allowing suppliers to disregard current law that restricts the number of hours and consecutive days in which they can deliver propane to try and catch up with the demand.

The governor said the state is also working with county officials to look out for people whose supplies might be getting low.

The emergency declaration involves all of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Jim Roddy of Seville just had a propane order filled three days ago and said his supplier did not mention short supply but he has noticed something else: higher prices.

“It just keeps on going up. When I moved in here 13 years ago, I paid 75¢ a gallon and now, $3.16,” said Roddy.

Calls by FOX 8 News to five different Northeast Ohio Propane suppliers were not returned on Monday.

David Field, the executive vice president of the Ohio Propane Gas Association issued a written statement which reads in part: “OPGA applauds Governor John Kasich’s proclamation declaring a state of energy emergency waiving regulations relating to motor carriers and drivers transporting propane and heating oil. Today, the U.S. DOT Midwestern office has also issued a regional order which will allow transporters to move product more freely.”

The regional order, unprecedented in recent Ohio experience, impacts 10 Midwest states, and a similar order is in effect for 14 Eastern states. A total of 30 states so far this winter have issued hours of service relief.

The release explains the supply nationwide is strong, but it currently is not where it is needed.

It blames the shortage on multiple events including late harvests of grain crops that required massive amounts of propane in order to be dried prior to storage and transportation challenges that include longer driving distances and loading times.

“The month of December brought historically cold weather, ice and snow which further inhibited the transportation of propane. Demand for residential, commercial and agricultural heat soared,” Field said, adding, “All these combined to prevent regional inventories from recovering and the existing pipeline and terminal infrastructure has been unable to recover.”

Both Roddy and Ponader, meanwhile, said they are supplementing with space heaters in areas of the home they use the most.

“We are cutting off rooms. We’re cutting off heat registers in rooms we don’t use. I have a small electric heater because I do work from home so in my office I’ve got that turned on with the door closed, so I’m staying toasty in the office,” said Ponader.

“I do have a fireplace there and I have some wood in the back and in case of an emergency we can always stay in the living room with the fireplace but hopefully, I’ve stayed ahead of the propane supply so I don’t have to worry too much about running out.”