Feeling the propane pinch - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Feeling the propane pinch

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Soaring propane prices have Vermonters wondering if they will get relief from the "propane pain."

As the region has experienced rock bottom temperatures, propane prices have skyrocketed. About 15% of the state uses propane and some Vermonters are feeling the pinch.

"I know this year's been really high and all my friends are renters. They are really feeling the penny pinching heat bill," said John Bennett of Richmond.

Industry experts say the issue started months ago.

"What happened this summer is we had a very wet summer, so the propane stocks that we would normally have going into the winter, were used in extraordinary amounts by farmers in the midwest to dry out their corn and grain crops," said Matt Cota of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association.

When the bitter winter arrived, the region felt the effects.

"As a result, we went into a winter low in terms of what were used to for the winter supply," Cota said.

Transportation regulations due to the Jones Act, created in the 20's, also make moving the supply a challenge.

"No foreign flag vessel under the Jones act can pick up product in one US port and bring it to another US port, so while there is propane we are producing more propane than ever before, thanks to the production of the shale, we are not able to get it where we needed to go," Cota said.  

Fuel experts say there are efforts being made to get propane to New England where it's needed.

"The federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates commercial drivers, has waived restrictions on hours of service for that specific point because they understand that we need those propane drivers that have to drive a little bit longer a little bit farther in order to get gas where it's needed to go," Cota said.  

Some Vermonters say their living situation assures they won't feel the heat regardless of propane prices rising or falling.

"Well it doesn't really affect me, because my heat is included in my rent, and we also have a big wood stove," Bennett said.

Concerns over heat as the cold temperatures continue.

Federal lawmakers are asking for a review of the market due to the soaring prices. But, fuel industry experts say the prices in Vermont have risen at a lower rate than wholesale.

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