- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Gov. Mike Pence asked farmers and others to return any unused propane to their suppliers Wednesday, as the state continues to feel the effects of an ongoing regional shortage.

Pence also announced he would extend travel waivers to truckers to maintain the flow of propane to homeowners and farmers and add $5 million in heating assistance for low-income residents.

The governor estimated that roughly 500,000 Indiana residents rely on propane to heat their homes.

“I think the actions we’re taking today are all focused on trying to bring some real relief,” Pence said. “It is not an overstatement to say we are facing a serious shortage in propane.”

The governor’s actions come on the heels of recent legislative efforts. The Indiana Senate gave initial approval to lifting the sales tax on propane sales Tuesday, since propane prices have skyrocketed amid the shortage. Some customers reporting seeing prices double from $2.50 a gallon to $5 a gallon.

Pence noted that heavy rainfall during the fall required farmers to dry their grains with propane, combined with brutally cold temperatures this month to place a squeeze on propane supplies.

Members of Indiana’s congressional delegation, meanwhile, sent a request to the U.S. Department of Transportation to lift a federal limit on hours when suppliers can transport fuels.

“We have heard from many distributors and customers in Indiana who have been directly impacted by this shortage. As additional winter storms and unusually low temperatures continue to impact the Hoosier state, the situation is becoming critical,” the group wrote in a letter Wednesday to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Republican U.S. Reps. Susan Brooks, Larry Bucshon, Luke Messer, Todd Rokita, Marlin Stutzman and Todd Young signed onto the letter with U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, a Republican.

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