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NY state launches probe into possible propane price gouging

New York state officials are launching an investigation into extended delays in delivering propane to customers and possible price gouging during the recent cold spell. (Photo: WHAM)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- New York state officials are launching an investigation into extended delays in delivering propane to customers and possible price gouging during the recent cold spell.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman tells The Associated Press Tuesday that the probe will also look into possible misconduct by propane suppliers who insisted customers had to buy a new propane tank before fuel could be delivered.

Schneiderman's investigation comes after an Arctic cold front sent temperatures plunging last week, with wind chills making it feel like minus 30 to minus 40 in some upstate areas.

Schneiderman, a Democrat, isn't naming specific companies yet, but his office says problems were "fairly widespread" across New York.

"In the evenings, the [thermostat] has to go down to 65 degrees because I can't afford to keep it at a comfortable temperature all day," said Denise Beals of Caledonia, a propane customer who suspects price gouging.

She says she was hit with sticker shock when she received her propane bill last week.

"It was $700, and we got 198 gallons," Beals said.

That made the price about $3.53 per gallon of propane. Beals says it jumped 50 cent per gallon over last year.

"I put sweaters on, I cook in my crock pot," Beals said. "I don't use my stove unless I absolutely have to because I can't afford to."

Donald Coty and his wife, Megan, live in Conesus. They pay about $1.29 per gallon, but have to fight for that price after their propane company tried to increase it back in October. That was months before this winter's cold snap.

"They charged us over $3.00 per gallon for the propane," Megan Coty said. "We were paying about $1.29 per gallon."

"For a couple hundred gallons, that price is ridiculous," Donald Coty added.

Anyone who feels they may have been a victim of price gouging can contact the Attorney General’s hotline at (518) 776-2000 or file a complaint online.

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