In early February, I take my annual trip to Sacramento for Government Affairs Day. This year I hope to meet with Sen. Jeff Stone or a staff member to discuss the propane issue I wrote about in this column a few weeks back.

A short recap: Our propane bill for December delivery totaled more than $1,600 at more than $4 a gallon. The California Public Uilities Commission does not regulate propane companies because they’re not considered a utility. We negotiated down the bill but I’m outraged and determined to protect other consumers.

Vermont, whose propane use is at 40 percent for residents’ heating, passed a bill a few years back regulating this industry. Propane is a commodity, sold on the stock market. As of Jan. 11, the cost of propane was about 30¢ a gallon.

Delivery costs and taxes certainly compensate for a hike in the cost of propane but nowhere do I understand a justification of that kind of markup.

I appreciate the responses you’ve sent me and most of you seem to have issues (more than a few) with the same propane company we have.

My plan is to take the crazy bill, the new bill, your comments and the Vermont legislation up to Sac in hopes we can get the senator interested in fighting to have the state regulate propane to prevent the industry from taking advantage of our community.

By the way, those of you who think you’re getting such a great deal on propane because you belong to a property owners association, think again.

We don’t belong to an association and our new “community code pricing,” $1.99 a gallon, is the same being offered to Idyllwild Property Owners Association members just for paying their $15 annual dues. What a deal you’re getting.

Becky Clark, Editor


  1. I just received a propane bill for close to $3.00 a gallon from Suburban . Plus a bill for rental of the tank! I didn’t request their tank, I rent from an owner. This is crazy! I’m a disabled,senior widowed woman living on Social Security. We didn’t even get a cost of living increase this year. But the fuel company sure gave themselves one!

  2. Propane distribution can be equated with robbery without arms. The victims are the uneducated, the uninformed, the widows, the sicks , the tenants and the poor in general. This is one of the dirtiest business I have ever seen in my life ( although much could be said about pharma companies as well, but this is a different topic alltogether) If you can read french, you will find some of the US related articles interested on my website. Just type in Vermont or Connecticut in the search engine. The british competition commission did a great job years ago to find a way to impede restrictions to competition imposed by propane companies, although their solution would probably be too “far fetched” in american eyes. The most efficient way to prevent people from being stuck in an exclusive relation with a propane distributor (which more often than not ends up in price gouging) is to circulate information about the problem and to force propane companies to sell tanks to consumers after a number of years (choice made by the Brits and by Connecticut legislators). To start an alternative project in your area, you just need to bring some TV journalists to your place after you having taken the pain of locating a couple of (old) defenseless people who have been f…. by some (large) propane companies for years. This is what I did in my village near Paris. I demonstrated to journalists that there is an inverse arithmetical relation between one’s household income and price of propane paid….They sure loved it and I had great coverage…. Good luck

  3. To Pam Parsons : in France, propane companies are not allowed to charge tank rental fees to tenants. By court order, propane companies operating in France were forbidden to bill tenants for tank rentals ( the reasoning was : since tanks are a necessary component of one’s house, the owner is not entitled to have tenants pay for an expenditure which , by its very nature, replaces an investment expenditure, ie the purchase of the tank). Now wait. Since propane companies were keen on placing their shitty tanks in every owner’s yards, all the while pleasing owners with assuaging discourses ( “don’t worry , the tenant will pay everything, tank and gas…”.), they decided to rename “tank rental fees”. They called them “tank security and maintenance fees” which , had it been true to reality, they could charge to tennants (as per law). As a consequence many tenants were abused and paid those fees without batting an eyelid…….

  4. I forgot to mention. In Texas, they passed a bill recently to limit price markup for propane wherever one propane company is enjoying a true monopoly situation. Look for details on Belterra master planned community ( near Austin) and the fight against Texas Community Propane Inc.