Alabama declares propane emergency - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Alabama declares propane emergency

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OPELIKA, AL (WTVM) -

The demand for propane gas has been so high this winter that suppliers can not get it to the customers fast enough, and it's causing a shortage felt by states across the country.  

Now the government is stepping in, taking steps to ease regulations and prevent price gouging.

Alabama governor Robert Bentley spoke these words as he signed a state of emergency declaration:

"With life-threatening, cold temperatures expected once again, it's important for residents to have necessary heating resources available for survival." 

Local suppliers disclaim that, saying this is not a "shortage" in the sense that there is not enough gas.  It's just not getting where it needs to go at an optimum speed. They also made sure to mention that it's not their fault.

"From my understanding, it is not a local supplier shortage, it is a national shortage," said Kathrine Carson, director of Lee County Emergency Management. 

WTVM visited propane suppliers across East Alabama, but none of the employees could spare one minute to speak on camera, because they are working non-stop to ship the gas they have as quickly as possible.  

So far, residents don't have to worry about getting service cut off to their homes, but suppliers are telling chicken farmers they'll get to them when they get to them. Baby chicks can't survive in low temperatures, and Alabama farmers are concerned that large numbers of them will die if they run out of propane.  

Governor Bentley's declaration is designed to eliminate any government red tape standing in the way of buying, and shipping gas. 

"When the governor declared the state of emergency, it enacts the ability for local homeowners who have a tank that they usually buy fuel for, they can actually go out and buy it from another supplier if they need to," said Carson. 

Governor Bentley added, "It alleviates all the rules and regulations, it removes those, so that transportation can take place, people can haul longer periods of time." 

Local propane suppliers said they are still able to handle all the customers they currently have, but they're not taking on any new ones for the time being. 

We're not seeing a worst case situation yet, and if everyone does their part, we may avoid facing serious consequences in Alabama before the winter is over.

"I think people should be conserving the propane that they use. Just be conscious of what you're doing and not wasteful," said Carson.

In addition to promoting the rate of supply, the Governor's declaration prevents companies from price gouging. It's officially defined as prices that exceed the 30-day average by 25 percent or more.   So far, prices in Alabama have not yet spun out of control.

Copyright 2014 WTVM. All rights reserved.

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