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Propane pinch hits Ohioans as agencies scramble for fuel

Local dealers contact suppliers as far south as Texas, Louisiana

State agencies are scrambling to help Ohio residents who have run out of propane heating fuel or are close to running out as another winter storm threatens to disrupt deliveries.

Since Jan. 22, the Public Utility Commission of Ohio and Attorney General’s Office have fielded calls from about 140 residents who have run out or are close to running out of propane.

Armed with lists of propane suppliers, state employees have since last week been connecting the residents to available inventory.

They’ve set up a hotline for people who run out of propane at (614) 799-3897. It’s operated from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“We are still in emergency mode here,” Tamara McBride, spokeswoman for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, said. “It’s still an issue. We are not out of this and it’s getting cold again. They are able to identify pockets where people are struggling and get them to a supplier.”

Outages have been reported throughout the state include Montgomery, Portage, Fairfield, Crawford, Lorain, Brown, Logan, Darke and Union counties.

David Field, Executive Vice President of the Ohio Propane Gas Association, said propane is arriving now via pipeline rather than truck, helping alleviate the shortage. He said the Dayton area hasn’t been as hard-hit as other parts of southern Ohio, where more shortages have been reported. Overall, he said, the situation seems to be improving.

“For last two weeks, it’s been touch and go,” he said. “There are shortages and there is a critical emergency still. But we don’t have a plethora of people saying they are completely out and their pipes are freezing. Things are brightening. I am taking fewer Alka Seltzers.”

The shortage is driven by January’s extreme arctic cold snap. Local dealers have sought supplies as far south as Texas and Louisiana to restore inventory. Residential tanks have been short-filled to spread the supply.

Holly Karg, spokeswoman for PUCO, said the situation seems to be slowly improving. “We have been working non-stop with suppliers and consumers to help make ends meet,” she said.

Once a supplier is lined up to help, residents can expect refills within hours or a couple of days, depending on the distance the supplier’s truck has to travel.

One complication is the way that propane is handled. Customers can either lease or own the tank used to supply the house or outbuilding.

In a lease situation, a waiver has to be signed to allow the tank to be refilled by other than the contracted supplier. Karg said PUCO has gotten waivers out via email, FAX and other methods so that tanks can be refilled.

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