Henry County Sheriff Michael Bodenbender is urging any county resident who suspects they may have been a victim of price gouging on propane to contact the Ohio Attorney General's office.

Henry County Sheriff Michael Bodenbender is urging any county resident who suspects they may have been a victim of price gouging on propane to contact the Ohio Attorney General’s office.

Bodenbender said he has not had any official complaints filed with his office, but has heard of people being charged more than $6 per gallon for propane. He urged those who suspect price gouging to call the Ohio AG’s office at 1-800-282-0515.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average price of residential propane increased by $1.50 per gallon last week to stand at $4.01 per gallon. That is almost $1.72 per gallon higher than during the same time period in 2013.

The EIA also said this is the largest single weekly increase since 1990.

Ohio Attorney Gen. Michael DeWine recently announced his office is monitoring the situation, which has been exasperated by the recent extreme cold temperatures. DeWine said he will also be working with other states to monitor possible anti-competitive activities related to the sale of propane.

On Friday, Congressman Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx asking him to extend the hours of service emergency exemption for truck drivers transporting propane and heating fuels.

“We have experienced extremely cold temperatures this winter, which are not expected to subside any time soon,” Latta said. “Ohioans are already experiencing the effects of these harsh winter storms, and we must do everything we can to help them protect their lives and livelihoods by getting them the supplies they need to heat their homes and farming operations. An extension of the emergency exemption will enable the delivery of propane to those most in need as quickly as possible.”

The letter was signed by the entire Ohio Congressional House delegation.

Gov. John Kasich issued a propane emergency recently and supplies of propane have been slow to reach the market. DeWine said some consumers have alleged their suppliers are not filling tanks as quickly as normal, while others say suppliers are charging higher prices which they believe to be price gouging.

According to DeWine, six percent of Ohioans use propane to heat their homes. Consumers in the state have been informed that propane availability is limited this winter and recent price increases are due to increased demand and depleted inventories.

Ten states, all in the Midwest, had price increases of 97 cents per gallon or more during the week that ended Jan. 27. In that time, wholesale propane prices increased by $1.43 to nearly $3.55 per gallon.

The EIA also reported U.S. propane stocks fell by 3.6 million barrels to end at 31.7 million barrles last week, which is nearly 45 percent lower than a year ago. Inventories in the Midwest fell by 1.4 million barrels, tied for the largest decrease with the Gulf Coast.

DeWine said Ohio does not have a statute that specifically addresses price gouging, but does have a law that bans unconscionable sales practices. He said a practice can be considered unconscionable if the supplier knew at the time of the sale that the price was substantially higher than the price at which similar goods or services could be readily obtained.

Relief may be on the way. Patrick DeHaan of gasbuddy.com posted on Facebook Friday morning that the February price curve for propane in the Midwest points to it running about $2 per gallon.

“So I would say that’s the relief,” DeHaan said. “It’s higher than it has been, but it’s been a very cold winter and inventories are very low.”

He added producers had to go to the spot market and purchase more supply, which helped lead to the increases.

E-mail comments to briank@northwestsignal.net .