Dayton Declares State of Emergency over Propane Shortage

Updated: 01/28/2014 4:15 PM By: Steve Patterson

As the temperatures fall, propane supplies are dropping right along with them, and the prices are going sky high, leaving customers on the expensive end of an expensive blow.

Lynn Oie is a customer of Larry's LP in Wisconsin, where she and her family have a cabin. They like to plan ahead, so they prepaid for their propane. Add to that, the fact that it was offered at $1.49 a gallon and it seemed like a no-brainer.

But over the weekend, she said she was told that it would cost $5 a gallon to buy more. Oie, who keeps her receipts handy, thinks it's simple. She pre-bought the propane, so it should be available at the originally offered price.  

KSTP called Larry's LP to figure out why that wasn't happening. Monica Johnson is the co-owner of the propane dealer and is surprised by the rising propane prices saying, "When I sent out pre-buy letters this summer, I had no idea that it was going to be over $5 a gallon the first of January."

She went on to say that she's all out. She can't even get the propane she pre-bought to satisfy her customer demands. And, she's feeling the pressure, breaking down on the phone when asked if she's worried about losing customers saying, "I'm going to lose probably every customer I have...cause I don't have propane."

Roger Leider, the Executive Director of the Minnesota Propane Association, describes it as a supply emergency, and says what Minnesotans are experiencing right now is unprecedented. Trucks are now traveling as far south as Texas to get more propane to bring back to Minnesota. But, that kind of long distance trucking adds to the cost.  

As for a solution, he offered an unlikely one saying, "Warm weather would be the best thing that could happen to us...That would be the fastest cure to the supply and pricing issues that we have right now."

Meanwhile, Gov. Mark Dayton has declared a state of emergency because of the severe shortage of propane and other home heating fuels statewide.
Dayton issued the emergency order Monday. The order calls on the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to activate the Minnesota Emergency Operations Plan. State agencies also will be directed to help local governments respond to and recover from the emergency.
Minnesota's adjutant general also will be able to order any military forces to active duty to provide emergency relief. Dayton also instructed Minnesota's commerce commissioner to use his consumer protection authority to help guard Minnesotans from price gouging.
The governor plans to meet with propane industry suppliers Tuesday to discuss the shortage and how to improve Minnesota's propane supply.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.