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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Local residents respond to propane crisis

  • Allyn and Sue Gillberg of rural Lindsborg were shocked recently when they received their propane bill.
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  • Allyn and Sue Gillberg of rural Lindsborg were shocked recently when they received their propane bill.
    The retired couple heats with propane. The couple’s bill is usually no more than $300, but their recent bill was $846 for about 200 gallons.
    The couple is on a fixed income and the bill hit them hard. They have closed off parts of the house and are using space heaters to try to conserve fuel.
    “We’ve got to have heat,” she said. “We don’t have a choice.”
    David Williams, president of Redigas in McPherson, said he presold propane at $1.49 a gallon this summer. The cost has run $1.45 to $1.80 per gallon for the last three years.
    Williams cost for propane as of last week was more than $4 per gallon. He had some reserves so he has only raised his price to $2.99 per gallon. However, some sellers are charging more than $5 per gallon.
    Williams said a variety of reasons have caused the propane shortage and resulting escalating prices.
    Farmers harvested a large corn crop this fall, and the harvest was late in the season. Propane is used to dry the corn. The propane supplies were unable to be replenished before winter hit.
    At one point, Williams said there were no sellers in the market, which caused the price to spike dramatically.
    Gov. Sam Brownback and six other governors wrote this week to President Barack Obama asking for help in addressing the propane shortage and price increases.
    They are asking for the administration to help increase propane supplies through “every means of transport.”
    They encouraged Obama to consider regulatory waivers aimed at increasing supplies and hoped the Small Business Administration would ease loan requirements to help communities respond to the shortage.
    Williams said some wholesalers were refusing to sell to local suppliers without cash upfront.
    “There are businesses in north whose owners are cashing out their 401ks to buy product for their customers,” he said. ... “At that point, they don’t know if they will ever get paid back.”
    Williams said some suppliers have been reluctant to deliver to customers with iffy credit.
    Williams has tried to assist his customers by lowering the amount of the minimum delivery. Normally that is 200, gallons, but he has lowered that to 150 gallons.
    “We are just trying to get people by,” he said.
    Williams said he hopes the propane costs will begin to stabilize in March as the end of cold weather decreases demand.
    Last week, the governor announced the state would make assistance available to low-income families who struggling to pay their propane bills.
    He has ordered the state Department for Children and Families to give propane users priority in processing applications for an annual program that helps poor families pay utility bills, and the department plans to increase the staff dedicated to processing applications. The governor also directed the department to reach out to poor families to ensure that they can continue to get propane.
    Page 2 of 2 - For application for assistance, visit www.dcf.ks.gov.
    Brownback also eased truck regulations to keep the propane trucks moving.
    In Kansas, about 83,000 homes rely on propane for heat, more than 7 percent of the total, higher than the national average, according to federal statistics.
    The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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