Idaho residents see sticker shock after propane prices spike

Residents in Malad, Idaho were shocked when their utility bills for gas skyrocketed. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) In Malad, Idaho, propane is the only option for gas. Most folks have big propane tanks outside their homes.

Ruth Rose says she fills hers twice a year. The fill-up usually costs her between $400 and $800, she says.

In April, the price sky-rocketed. Amerigas billed her $1,402.06.

"I didn't know how I was going to pay it," she said.

Rose is not alone seeing sticker shock.

Some in Malad find their inability to afford gas to be a crisis. As such, several have reached out to the Oneida county’s crisis center.

Marci Stocks is an advocate at the center and, she agrees, it’s a crisis. Doing without gas could mean no hot water, stoves, ovens or furnace heat for residents.

She says she is “appalled” by the sudden spike in bills.

Looking at Ruth's invoice from Amerigas, you can see that she was charged $3.57 per gallon. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the national average price of propane at that time was more than a dollar less expensive: $2.49/gallon.

In a statement to Get Gephardt, Amerigas’ corporate spokesperson dismissed the price difference sating its "prices are not set in order to align with the national average.”

Furthermore, she says the price encompasses, not just the propane, but also the "many services" Amerigas provides as a "premium provider."

In 2014, Amerigas was sued by the state of Michigan for charging customers prices higher than agreed-upon rates. The company settled, agreeing to pay at least $500,000 back to about 5,600 customers.

Speaking on the settlement now, Amerigas wrote it is "possible that we settled to avoid costly litigation, not because we were price gouging."

As for the folks in Malad, after Rose complained to Amerigas, the company amended her bill, dropping the price down to charge down to $2.20, well below what the national average was at that time. He total bill was $871 a gallon.

Unlike natural gas, the price of propane is not regulated by the state of Idaho or the state of Utah. A propane company is legally allowed to charge whatever they want, even when propane is the only available option.

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