County needs to reduce natural gas use


With a significant drop in temperatures, icy conditions and several inches of snow, Dubois County residents are being asked to use natural gas as little as possible.

The cities of Jasper and Huntingburg both sent out press releases Tuesday urging everyone, including residents, commercial businesses and industries, to limit natural gas use by lowering thermostats to 68 degrees or lower, minimizing the use of gas appliances and hot water heaters, and avoiding the use of gas fireplaces.

“The natural gas grid is deteriorating as we speak and it's not getting better any time soon,” Mayor Dean Vonderheide said in the Jasper release. “This is impacting the entire Midwest, and with blizzard like conditions in multiple states, we will continue to see power loss and production loss.”

Bud Hauersperger, Jasper’s general manager of utilities, said the city has two gas lines that are usually monitored closely enough to where there aren’t major problems even during brutal winter months. Unexpected blizzards and steep drops in temperature can cause chaos, though.

“This time, the whole Midwest got caught off guard,” Hauersperger said. “Some of our consultants that we work with for our gas purchase, they've been in business for 35 years and they said they’ve never seen anything like this.”

Plants that use the most gas in Jasper were asked to lower gas usage or even temporarily shut down, if possible. Schools in the area are doing e-learning for the week and are lowering temperatures in the buildings while they are unoccupied.

Hauersperger said residents can still use electricity and water as normal.

A team consisting of the Jasper Utilities Department, Gas Department, the Department of Personnel/Safety/Loss Control, Mayor Vonderheide, Dubois County Emergency Management and Utility Gas Management, which is the city’s contracted gas management company, are monitoring the situation and will provide daily updates.

In several southern states, people are going without heat, power or water in their homes. Power companies are instituting rolling blackouts for hours at a time. Many are living out of their cars or staying at shelters or hotels. In Texas, a state of emergency has been declared in all 254 counties.

Even in the Midwest, where states are more prepared for freezing conditions, natural gas processing plants are losing power.

“The natural gas system across the Midwest will continue to see supply cuts impacting some or potentially all of us,” Vonderheide said in the release. “It is impossible at this point to determine where the future gas production losses will occur.”

Hauersperger said he doesn’t know of anyone losing power or heat in Dubois County yet, but that’s not to say that it can’t happen. Daily updates will be provided by the city, and if the situation worsens, information on how to stay safe in dangerous conditions will be provided, he said.

Dubois County residents are urged to continue to reduce their gas use through Sunday morning, which could be extended if conditions don't improve.

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