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Propane Problem Continues

February 5, 2014, 10:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Propane Problem Continues

With low temperatures and high prices, the propane problem continues. It may have even turned deadly in North Dakota.

Authorities say a family member found a woman on the Standing Rock Reservation dead Tuesday. Her mobile home was cold and its propane tank was empty.

About 90 percent of the homes on the Standing Rock Reservation, which also stretches into South Dakota, rely on propane for heat, Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault said. That means many are concerned about propane's high price this winter.

"Yes I am, especially for those with set incomes,” Geraldine Agard said. “With prices going up, there is a big concern for me even when I'm working."

Agard lives in McLaughlin. Homes across the reservation face the same dilemma.

A federal program helps people, who qualify, with heat assistance. That money doesn't purchase as much with the soaring cost of propane.

The latest numbers released show propane's average price across the country has dropped below $4 per gallon, but it's still expensive. It's close to $1.60 more expensive when compared with the same time last year.

"When propane is that high, we notice more and more families coming in saying they're running low on fuel and they're going to need help," Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault said.

Archambault says what homeowners on the reservation have historically spent on propane over one to two months, they now spend within a few weeks.

Workers with the housing authority have been checking on homes. Archambault says they recently found 80 with propane tanks empty or close to it. They added just enough to get those people by until another supply of propane is available through the assistance program.

There are people on the reservation who don't qualify for assistance but still can't afford propane at its current price. Archambault says the tribe is looking internally to find resources to help them as well. He can't guarantee any amount.

"I hope they have enough, you know, to give out," Agard said.

In the meantime, each of the tribe's eight districts has identified a facility that can be used as a shelter if needed. Two are already open, one in South Dakota.

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