It’s a brief January thaw, but it’s still early in winter and subzero temperatures can return at any time. So it was disturbing to learn Wednesday that state officials are taking emergency measures in response to a deluge of complaints of major delays in home deliveries of propane and possible price gouging.
How serious is it? It’s so bad that state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is launching an investigation into possible misconduct by propane companies after his office received numerous complaints about undelivered heating propane in the midst of the extreme cold over the last two weeks. Schneiderman said his office was flooded with calls from New Yorkers across the state reporting major delays in deliveries.
We should stress here no propane suppliers in Greene and Columbia counties are known to be under suspicion and the companies we contacted Wednesday said they have had no problem meeting demand and have not received any customer complaints about deliveries.
In addition, spokesmen for state Sen. George Amedore Jr., R-46, who represents Greene County, and Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-106, who represents Columbia County, said their offices have not received any complaints from residents about difficulty getting propane deliveries.
One elected official in Albany has been hearing complaints and is trying to do something about it. Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-111, who represents Schenectady County, introduced legislation that would allow homeowners leasing propane tanks to choose from multiple suppliers for emergency deliveries.
The elderly are among the most vulnerable groups when temperatures plummet and remain frigid for days. The mercury in an uninsulated or aging home can drop to dangerous thresholds in a hurry even with minimal heating.
Hypothermia can occur when the body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature, according to the Mayo Clinic website. Normal body temperature is around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia occurs as the body’s temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the body’s temperature drops, the heart, nervous system and other organs can’t work normally. Left untreated, hypothermia can eventually lead to complete heart and respiratory failure, and eventually to death.
The first symptom of hypothermia is shivering, because it’s the body’s automatic defense against cold. It’s an attempt to warm itself.
Other signs and symptoms of hypothermia include: Slurred speech or mumbling; slow, shallow breathing; weak pulse; clumsiness or lack of coordination; drowsiness or very low energy; confusion or memory loss; loss of consciousness; and, in infants, bright red, cold skin.
We live in the Northeast — a region where fuel oil suppliers should know winters can turn deadly cold. New Yorkers depend on timely deliveries of gas, oil and propane to keep warm in their homes. There are at least eight weeks of winter still to come. If proven, any supplier intentionally withholding deliveries are putting lives at risk and should be held accountable.