INDIANAPOLIS - Gov. Mike Pence declared an energy emergency over the propane shortage hitting the Midwest and has announced steps to help Hoosiers.
Cold weather and pipeline problems are among the factors contributing to the nationwide shortage.
Indiana is one of 24 states declaring emergencies and Pence insisted that the shortage is now a crisis.
Pence is asking farmers and others to return any unused propane to their suppliers as the state struggles through an ongoing shortage.
"As in the past, the compassionate nature of Hoosiers is evident, and I urge all to be mindful of their propane usage, and I ask those who might have a surplus to help their neighbors in need," Pence said.
Hoosiers who have a surplus and wish to help are asked to contact their local propane supplier.
Pence also announced Wednesday he would extend travel waivers to maintain the flow of propane to homeowners and farmers and was adding $5 million in heating assistance for low-income residents.
The governor estimated that roughly 500,000 Indiana residents rely on propane to heat their homes. He offered advice to help homeowners conserve what they have.
"Turn down the thermostat. If you're away from home, turn it down a little more than you usually would. By lowering the temperature and lowering consumption and increasing conservation, we will ease the burden," Pence said.
Pence's actions come on the heels of legislative efforts to alleviate widespread problems. The Indiana Senate gave initial approval to lifting the sales tax on propane sales Tuesday.
Prices on propane have skyrocketed amid the shortage. Some customers have reported seeing prices double from $2.50 a gallon to $5 a gallon.
Propane suppliers are limiting deliveries to 150 gallons and only when tanks are down to 20 percent.
Suppliers say the goal is to make smaller deliveries to homeowners every three weeks.
"That is the goal right now. As soon as it relieves, as soon as the pressure relieves on the market, and we can get more product, then we will extend that," Mike Hayden with Co-Alliance Energy said.
The Indiana Attorney General’s office said the emergency declaration will allow it to investigate claims of price gouging. The office has received 21 complaints about the high prices so far.
To file a complaint about prices, call the Attorney General’s office at 1-866-241-9753 or visit www.IndianaConsumer.com .
Follow Chris Proffitt on Twitter: @chrisproffitt