Propane company president answers questions about price hike

Propane company president answers questions about price hike in East Tenn.

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By LAURA HALM
6 News Reporter

CLARKRANGE (WATE) - Concerned viewers have been emailing, calling and asking 6 News for answers about the price of propane. Some of them wondering if they're victims of price gouging. We took your questions to the president of United Propane Gas.

According to the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, a total of 133 complaints have been filed across the state of suspected propane price gouging. That's up from 17 just a few days ago. The State Attorney General is now investigating.

One question we keep hearing is why is there a shortage of propane? The answer to that isn't simple, but it boils down to a rough winter, a drop in production, and a high amount of propane still being exported.

6 News spoke Monday with Rebecca York, who uses a propane tank to heat her home in Clarkrange. She's worried she may have paid too much to refill her tank, even though earlier this year she signed a contract with United Propane Gas to pay $1.99 per gallon.

"He told me if I wanted it, it was $3.59 a gallon and all contracts had been suspended," said York.

She said hearing that was a shock. "I didn't know how you could cancel a guarantee," added York.

We took that question to the United Propane Gas President Eric Small, who says unfortunately right now, the gas people pre-bought isn't available because of the propane shortage. He says and suspending contracts is in the fine print.

"It's in there and it clearly says that if we're unable to ship this pre-buy gas that we bought on your behalf, that deliveries of pre-buy will be suspended until we can get delivery of that gas," he said.

So how much does propane cost right now? We're told in East Tennessee prices range from $3.50 to $4.00 a gallon. However, in December 2013 in Kentucky, which is where UPG is based, propane was $2.45 per gallon.

That brings up the question, why the difference?

"Our prices are moving daily because we're getting increases daily. We got a 20 cent increase last night," said Small.

Small tells 6 News his company is simply not price gouging.

"We're not in here to screw anybody. We're not going to do it. We've been here 65 years."

Before you fill up your tank, Small says you should ask several questions.

"What is my price? Is it locked in until I get my delivery? And are there any additional fees?"

There's good news for people with contracts. United Propane Gas is expecting a shipment of pre-buy gas as soon as February 15. In the meantime, if you choose to wait for this propane supply, you can turn down your thermostat, use sources of electric heat like space heaters, and simply be patient.

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