Indiana Governor Mike Pence has declared an energy emergency as a result of the propane gas shortage, “I am declaring an energy emergency in Indiana because of the shortage of propane fuel.” The Governor gathered with the Lt Governor and state ag leaders Wednesday to announce steps to help bring more propane gas into the state, “First to waive propane transport statutes until March 1, 2014. Second, I am 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. Pence said these measures will help Hoosier propane suppliers operate at full capacity.
Pence said that 10% of all Hoosier homes are heated with propane and that the fuel is critical for farming and agribusiness operations. Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann called on those in the farming community who have propane they are not using to sell it back so their neighbors can use it. “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.”
Jane Ade Stevens, with Indiana Corn and Indiana Soybean Alliance, says grain farmers are being asked to check their supplies, “We have asked our members to check their tanks and see if they have any propane; and, if they do, to contact their supplier for possible buyback.” Stevens told HAT she was not optimistic there is a lot of unused propane on farms. Don Villwock with Indiana Farm Bureau said they, too, had asked their members to sell back any unneeded propane fuel. The Knox County farmer said turkey operations in his area are facing a desperate situation, “I was on a turkey farm last week, and they were very concerned about the situation.” Villwock also said he has been told that some operations have had their propane contracts canceled because the supplier was diverting their fuel to residential customers.
State Veterinarian Dr. Bret Marsh said animal welfare and food safety are also being impacted by the shortage of fuel, “Young turkeys, chickens, and pigs are especially vulnerable to these bitterly cold temperatures.” He said the Board of Animal Health has been contacted by several poultry operations who are facing a serious situation. He stated several operations have indicated they are stopping adding more young animals to the operations because they do not have the fuel to keep them warm. In addition, Marsh said some dairy operations do not have the fuel to maintain sanitary conditions, “These operations need hot water in order to sanitize equipment and meet inspection standards. These operations are doing the best they can; but, without propane, it is hard to heat water.”
Beth Tharp, a pork producer from Putnam County, summed up the concerns of livestock farmers across the state when she said, “We an animal producers have a moral obligation to make sure that our animals are warm and comfortable, and we will do the best we can to insure that.”
The shortage has been caused by a combination of weather and market forces, and there is little state government can do to alleviate the shortage. Co-ops and propane distributors are traveling as far as Texas to obtain supplies. Pence said the situation will likely continue for several more weeks and urged Hoosiers to come together and conserve, “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.”
Lt Governor Ellspermann said additional measures are being taken to help rural homeowners who are struggling with the price of propane which has more than doubled in just the past few weeks, “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.” Ellspermann said Hoosiers who find themselves in crisis because of the shortage should call 211 to be connected with resources in their communities that can help.
During this shortage, the Office of the Indiana Attorney General will continue to protect the rights of Hoosiers who feel they are being subjected to price gouging. To file an inquiry, please call the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 1-866-241-9753.