The cold winter is a growing concern for Minnesotans who use propane to heat their homes as prices rise and long-term supplies are stretched.
Governor Mark Dayton has signed a peacetime emergency to monitor the situation surrounding the rise in propane costs. The state is currently working to free up resources to increase the transportation of propane, in hopes of avoiding the threat of households running out of heating fuel. In the meantime, the situation does not appear to be of immediate emergency. Both the state, as well as Carlton County are monitoring and maintaining awareness of the situation as it pertains to propane customers and the safety of Carlton County residents.
After conversations with local propane companies, Carlton County Emergency Manager Brian Belich stated, “Propane companies are working with their customers to make sure they are taken care of. If customers have questions, they are encouraged to contact their propane company”.
Minnesota residents with questions about the current propane situation or who are in danger of running out of heating fuel can call 1-800-657-3504. This is the main hotline for the state that is open seven days a week, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
People who use propane to heat their homes can take several steps at this time.
- Conserve energy as much as possible. Turn down thermostats and be aware of your propane use.
- Reach out to family and friends for assistance.
- Check on your neighbors, especially the elderly and families with small children.
- Check locally for updates about the situation, www.co.carlton.mn.us.
- Call 9-1-1 in an emergency.
Sarah Buhs, Captain and Public Education Coordinator for the Cloquet Area Fire District, encourages residents to use caution when using alternative heating sources such as space heaters:
- Keep anything that can burn (including pets and people) at least three feet away from heaters or any type of heating equipment.
- Never use your oven to heat your home.
- Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
- Use a heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters will have the most up-to-date safety features; older space heaters may not meet the newer safety standards.
- Remind kids not to touch or play around heaters.
Additional low-income assistance information: Emergency assistance may be available for qualifying customers. If interested, call the state emergency assistance hotline to access local resources: 1-800-657-3710.
Consumers who need financial assistance to pay heating bills may find help through the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The Department of Commerce administers LIHEAP in Minnesota, which helps low-income households, especially those with seniors, children, veterans and people with disabilities, with their heating bill.
Money is still available for households that have not already applied.
Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman announced that LIHEAP crisis payments would increase from $500 to $1,000 for applicants heating their homes with propane and heating oil. The crisis payments could be available as early as next week.
Qualifying families must apply for assistance at the local service provider in their area; Minnesota has 32 local service providers. A list of local service providers and information on applying for the Minnesota Energy Assistance Program is available by visiting the Energy Assistance section of the Division of Energy Resources website or by calling 1-800-657-3710.
Other local resources:
- Salvation Army’s Heat Share Program: Carlton County residents only, contact Jackie at (218) 879-1693, ext. 10 for more details. This program is not income-based.
- Fond du Lac: The 2013-2014 Minnesota Energy Programs Application is available on the Fond du Lac Reservation website www.fdlrez.com, go to the “Community Services" tab under “Energy Assistance.”
The State of Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety is updating information at: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/hsem/Pages/default.aspx.