By Mike Grant Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — The United States Department of Transportation has declared a emergency that will allow propane transporters to drive longer hours. The DOT Federal Motor Safety Administration says the emergency is in response to the extreme cold experienced throughout the Midwestern states from the polar vortex and the possible continuing effects of the arctic cold on people and property, including an immediate threat to human life of public welfare in the Midwestern United States.
The agency took the action following requests by both the Midwest Governors Association and Indiana’s congressional delegation, including 8th District Congressman Larry Bucshon. The groups called for federal officials to take any and all actions possible to increase the transport of propane and heating fuels to Indiana and surrounding states.
The extended extreme cold weather, was preceeded by a large corn crop that had farmers using a lot of propane to dry. Propane stocks were also lowered by exports that had increased by 400 percent over the last five years. Propane dealers in Indiana have had trouble resupplying this winter. Many of their normal nearby sources for fuel have dried up and some have had to travel to Kansas, Mississippi and Texas.
The emergency declaration will allow propane transporters to be on the road for longer hours. The declaration runs through March 1, 2014 and mirrors an order issued by Indiana Governor Mike Pence last month. Pence has also asked that Indiana residents return any unneeded propane to suppliers and has released $5 million in low-income heating assistance.
The propane shortage has created price spikes. Suppliers say in some parts of the state the price has doubled.
Northern Indiana Representative Jack Walorski headed the congressional call for the transportation waivers and she applauded the decision.
In the meantime the Indiana Attorney General’s Office is offering to help people who may be running low on propane to find the fuel. The office says consumers whose propane tank supply is at 10 percent or less and have trouble finding a supplier can contact 1-800-382-5516 for assistance. The attorney general’s office says it will help customers resolve delivery issues by working with suppliers.
Propane is heavily used as a heating source for many rural residents. Officials estimate around 10 percent of all Indiana homes use the gas. In addition many livestock producers utilize propane to keep their young animals warm in the winter. Propane is also a popular source of energy in the Daviess County Amish area.
An extended cold snap has made the shortage even worse. January was the eleventh coldest in Indiana history. February is also projected to have below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation.