State Senators are lining up behind a request for the United States Justice Department to investigate big jumps in propane prices. A Representative wants the Missouri Attorney General to investigate. And the Attorney General says he has already started.
Bolivar Senator Mike Parson sees the sudden increases in propane costs as life-threatening price manipulation by the natural gas industry. His resolution, likely to come to a Senate vote in a few days, notes a key propane pipeline was shut down for most of December while exports of the gas more than doubled in 2013 from 2012. .
Another Senator, Dan Brown of Rolla, says the propane shortage could be disastrous for turkey, chicken, and hog producers, and could produce significant food price increases.
Parson says people in his district who cannot get, or cannot afford to get, high-priced propane are buying space heaters. He says if anyone dies in a house fire that can be traced to the propane shortage or unaffordable supplies, gas corporation executives should be prosecuted.
A Senate vote on his resolution is expected soon.
Attorney General Chris Koster says his office is opening an investigation, at Parson’s request. Koster’s staff says the office has received forty complaints from consumers indicating “that the price charged for propane gas increased from approximately $1.94 in December, 2013, to approximately $5.00 in recent days.” Koster says the concerns are justified. He says his staff is working with businesses and agencies in nine other Midwestern states “to determine the cause of these price increases.”
About the time Koster was announcing he had opened his investigation and had talked with businesses and officials in other states last Friday, Representative Jay Houghton of Martinsburg was announcing his resolution calling on Koster to start the probe. “The industry itself has caused this shortage. The blame lies with them,” he said.