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Propane crisis continues to grip Ohio, Public Utilities Commission says

Calls from residents who fear they’ll run out of propane heating fuel continued to arrive Monday at a hotline set up by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

The hotline at (614)799-3897 is operated from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. The PUCO is working with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to help residents who are either running out of the fuel or who believe they could be victims of price-gouging.

Supplies have been severely constrained largely because of unusual cold spells in January that pushed temperatures well below zero degrees. Most propane arrives in Ohio by truck. Residents who need the fuel are in rural areas not served by natural gas lines.

Outages have been reported throughout the state including in Montgomery, Portage, Fairfield, Crawford, Lorain, Brown, Logan, Darke and Union counties. Propane dealers have been short-filling tanks to spread the available supply.

“It’s still a big issue,” Holly Karg, PUCO spokeswoman, said. “It is slowly improving every day as we get customers connected with suppliers. Call volume is dwindling but we are not out of this.”

Paul West, who lives with his wife and son on a 700-acre farm near Greenville in Darke County, said that his tank is down to 20 percent full. His 150-year-old farmhouse is only heated to 62 degrees, he said, but he expects to run out of fuel in two days or so or by Wednesday.

His supplier told him he couldn’t be refilled for two weeks.

“I won’t last a couple weeks.” West said. “I was amazed.”

At that point, West called the Attorney General’s office for help. West said he was told to call back when the tank level hit 10 percent or less. That’s the point at which the state is taking action to arrange an emergency fill. West said he’d rather not wait.

“I’ve called a couple other companies and nobody is taking new customers,” West said.

Consumers who suspect price gouging or other unfair business practices regarding propane should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office by calling 800-282-0515.

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