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Propane Shortage on St. John

Dec. 30, 2008 – St. John is in the midst of a propane crisis caused by a U.S. Coast Guard clamp down on the number of people that can be on a barge transporting a truck filled with propane tanks across Pillsbury Sound.
The fuel comes in 100-pound tanks and is used for cooking by many of the island's residents.
"We've been waiting over two months. It's been very stressful," Robin Copeland at St. John Ultimate Villas said Tuesday.
Elvis Yearwood, owner of Paradise Gas, is the major supplier of propane on St. John. He said he has more than 100 people on his waiting list but can't meet their needs. The problem has hit vacation villa management companies particularly hard.
According to Copeland, St. John Ultimate Villas owner Kristin Cox went to St. Thomas Tuesday to get 20-pound barbecue grill-sized tanks filled so the villas she manages won't run out.
Brent Lynn, operations manager at Catered To Vacation Homes, said the company is also using the 20-pound tanks in an effort to ward off a villa going without propane.
"I've run out and switched tanks," he said.
Lynn last week bought ten 20-pound tanks to fill in the gap until the problem is resolved.
The problem began four or five months ago, Yearwood said, when the Coast Guard began enforcing a regulation that was already on the books. He said the regulation mandates that only 16 people can be aboard a barge when propane is transported.
U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad confirmed that the Coast Guard is enforcing this regulation.
To avoid running the barge with only a partial load, the barge companies make the Paradise Gas truck wait for hours at the Red Hook barge terminal until they've transported all the waiting vehicles, Yearwood said.
"Lots of times I stay at Red Hook all day – until 7 p.m.," he said.
Sherry Boynes-Jackson at the Boyson Inc. barge company said that Paradise Gas doesn't let her know in advance when the company needs to move propane tanks across Pillsbury Sound so Boyson can schedule a run that would include Paradise plus other vehicles carrying fuel.
"Call the day before," Boynes-Jackson asked.
While Paradise never calls, Boynes-Jackson said that other fuel companies call only sporadically.
Yearwood could not be reached again for further comment.
Normally, Paradise Gas would deliver about 20 tanks every day, but Yearwood said that now, he can work only a few days a week.
However, he hasn't raised his price from $110 a tank.
St. John Administrator Leona Smith, who first learned of this months-old problem when The Source called her, asked that anyone with similar problems alert her office so situations don't run on for months without solutions. Her number is 776-6484.

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