Eastern Ontario homeowners hit with skyrocketing propane bills
Published Monday, January 27, 2014 5:06PM EST Last Updated Monday, January 27, 2014 6:56PM EST
First there was a propane shortage. Now, residents in Eastern Ontario are seeing their utility bills double. Demand for propane is on the rise across Canada and the US, forcing prices to skyrocket. Thousands of homeowners in our region rely on propane to heat their homes. They don't have natural gas in their area and oil was simply too expensive. But a cold winter here and in the US has boosted the demand for propane along with the price. Mary Ann Buchner runs a kennel near Finch, about an hour southeast of Ottawa. While she heats primarily with wood, propane is a necessity for her dogs and herself. There is no natural gas line out to her area.
"At night I use the propane,” says Buchner, “and running a small business, I do use a lot of hot water.”
Buchner says in the past several months, her propane bills have doubled.
“I paid $130 for three weeks (at this time last year), and $270 for the same three weeks this year,” she says, despite the fact her consumption has remained the same.
“Just to jump and double it is unbelievable.”
It's the same story across Canada and the United States. A propane shortage has led to energy emergencies in more than a dozen states where prices have tripled.
Andy DeHorn, a homeowner in Illinois says “My propane will cost me more than my damned mortgage.”
An Ontario chicken farmer says he's got no choice but to pay to keep his barns warn.
“What else can you do, You’ve got to have the heat.”
The Canadian Propane Association at first denied a shortage. Now, it's saying the price hike is a typical "supply and demand" issue.
Andrea Labelle is the General Manager for the Canadian Propane Association, “Historically, prices are higher in winter. Usage, supply and demand principles are at work here.”
But double? Mary Ann Buchner isn't buying that.
We’ve had colder winters before,” she says.
Thousands of other homeowners aren’t buying it either. They are demanding answers from the Ontario government. But the government says its hands are tied; the propane industry isn't regulated in Canada.
Bob Chiarelli is Ontario’s Energy Minister, “We will do a post-mortem provincially of what’s happened in the industry to see whether it should be regulated.”
In the meantime, though, thousands of homeowners are turning down the heat, putting on an extra sweater, and trying to tough out an already tough winter.