Generator Pool Plan

Stations, terminals would need to retrofit wiring

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida gas stations would have to be able to run on generators, but businesses would not have to buy them under a proposal that emerged Wednesday in the state Senate as one possible solution to help ease lines at the pump after hurricanes.

If stations were required to retrofit their wiring so they could easily switch to backup power, they would be able to use generators provided as part of a sharing or leasing program, said the Associated Press.

The compromise measure introduced in the Senate Domestic Security [image-nocss] Committee would allow stations to avoid what owners feared: that they would be required to buy generators that could cost as much as $50,000.

The bill comes in response to long often seen after hurricanesmany times there is gasoline in the tanks, but stations are without power to pump it or to run things like credit-card machines.

The plan also attempts to address the problem of power outages at terminals where fuel is loaded into tanker trucks to be taken to retail stations. It would require such terminal facilities to be able to pump fuel on an alternate power source within 24 hours of a major disaster, unless it is damaged to the point where it would not be safe.

The terminal would not necessarily need a generator beforehand. It would need to be able to get one running within a day.

The bill would apply to all stations with eight or more dispensers within a half-mile of an interstate or a main evacuation route.

Currently, many stations would not be able to use generators even if they could get them because they do not have the electrical wiring to switch their power off the main electric system to a generator.

Backers of the bill envision that instead of forcing retailers to buy generators, they could use a pool of devices that could quickly be delivered to stores that need them most after a storm. That could lessen the financial risk of a station buying a generator and then not getting hit by a storm.

"We're not opposed to being generator-ready," said Jim Smith, president of the Florida Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, which represents independent gas stations. "We're opposed to the mandatory installation of generators."

The group is backing the measure, which committee chairman State Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla (R), said was still a work in progress. The panel did not vote on the bill Wednesday.

Ironically, one issue stations face is finding fuel for their generators. While they may have plenty of gasoline to sell to the public, many do not sell diesel, which is used in commercial generators, and do not have an easy way to get it into the generator.

There are other solutions floating around in the legislature; some lawmakers have suggested requiring stations to have generators. But any proposal would likely have to go through Diaz de la Portilla's committee. Still, the issue is likely to be heavily negotiated through the legislative session that runs through April.