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Propane supplier to compensate customers who suffered in bitter cold snap

Propane supplier to compensate customers who suffered in bitter cold snap

Attorney General's Office reaches settlement with Ferrellgas over 2017-2018 crisis
Propane supplier to compensate customers who suffered in bitter cold snap
Photographer: Shutterstock

ALBANY — A propane supplier that had trouble making deliveries during the deep cold snap of late 2017-early 2018 will pay compensation to its customers who ran out of home heating fuel.

The state Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday announced a settlement with Kansas-based Ferrellgas Partners. While multiple companies came under criticism in January 2018 for their performance, the Johnstown office of Ferrellgas was particularly hard-hit.

Many of its customers ran out of the fuel they relied on to heat their homes or came very close to doing so, the AG’s office said. Moreover, many customers were unable to even get through to the company on the telephone.

Ferrellgas did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. In January 2018, a spokesman said via email: “Ferrellgas is working around the clock to make sure our customers receive their propane deliveries. This is a situation that is not unique to Ferrellgas or to propane consumers in New York state. Many propane consumers were caught off guard by how quickly these extreme cold temperatures arrived in the region.”

The AG’s Office said Ferrellgas reviewed its operations after the cold snap abated and has made or agreed to make multiple changes to prevent a similar crisis in the future. These include:

  • Increasing its fuel storage capacity in the New York area from 90,000 to 210,000 gallons;
  • Expanding its customer service operation at its Johnstown location;
  • Adding additional trucks to ship fuel to its storage tanks; 
  • Adding three additional trucks to deliver fuel to homes.

The crisis drew attention from legislators as well.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, had his staff begin collecting horror stories after an elderly Duanesburg couple contacted him about their fears of freezing.

“In our area of upstate New York, we saw how delayed or missed propane deliveries literally left families out in the cold — completely unacceptable,” Santabarbara recalled Wednesday. “It quickly became apparent that changes were needed to ensure families can keep the heat on when temperatures reach dangerously cold levels, especially in our rural communities.

“There’s certainly more to do on this issue, but holding companies like Ferrellgas accountable is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, some of the damage caused by their failure to deliver cannot be undone.”

Santabarbara’s office collected dozens of complaints in early 2018 and the AG’s Office collected hundreds.

In a news release Wednesday, state Attorney General Letitia James said: 

“Ferrellgas’s failure to service its customers not only caused many New Yorkers to bear freezing temperatures inside their own homes during a week of below-zero temperatures, but caused untold hardship that reverberated throughout the Capital Region. Nevertheless, customers should rest assured that Ferrellgas has taken meaningful steps to prevent this problem from recurring in the future and is attempting to make amends with those affected by this situation.” 

Her office’s settlement with Ferrellgas calls for Ferrellgas to:

  • Compensate consumers who experienced a disruption to their fuel supply with a $200 fuel credit or a one-time cash payment of $100. 
  • Reimburse customers for certain expenses related to their fuel disruption, such as the purchase of portable heating devices, up to $100. 
  • Pay $75,000 in costs to the Attorney General’s Office.

Consumers who believe they may be entitled to compensation due to a disruption in their fuel supply may file a complaint online with the AG’s consumer frauds bureau or call 1-800-771-7755. Consumers who are eligible for compensation should receive a letter from Ferrellgas within 90 days. 

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