Sandy Gas Update

Christie orders rationing, lifts supply restrictions; Cuomo suspends distribution requirements

Chris Christie

NEW YORK -- As countless stories of gasoline lines, shortages and other fuel supply issues fill the media in the aftermath of "Superstorm" Sandy's devastating strike on the Eastern Seaboard, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michel Bloomberg have taken action to address the situation as a key part of the recovery effort.

In the state of New Jersey, Governor Christie took action to prevent a fuel shortage and ease the problem of extended wait times and lines at gas stations by signing an executive order declaring a limited state of energy emergency with regard to the supply of motor fuel and implementing "odd-even" rationing for gasoline purchases based on license plate numbers in 12 New Jersey counties-- Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Morris, Monmouth, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren--beginning at noon on Nov. 3; 14 of the 23 stations on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway are located in these counties.

"As New Jerseyans continue the long process of recovering from Hurricane Sandy, it's imperative that our families have secure, reliable access to essential supplies like fuel. Right now, the impact of the storm, particularly the continuance of widespread power outages, has created the disorderly sale of gasoline--including long lines, out of operation stations and stations facing shortages. This system will ease the strain on those gas stations still operating, while we work to bring more online for the public to access fuel, in a manner that is fair, easy to understand, and less stressful," said Christie.

"The orderly and reliable sale of gas to our residents is essential to maintaining a steady and reliable source of power for both transportation and the maintenance of essential services at home. With the challenges we face in the storm's aftermath, we will be vigilant in enforcing this odd-even system, as we ease the stresses on the system," said Attorney General Jeffery S. Chiesa. "Those who choose to disregard this order will be prosecuted to the fullest extent permitted under the Governor's state of emergency authority."

The sales provision will remain in effect for as long as the Governor's limited declared state of energy emergency is in effect in those 12 counties.

Christie also signed an executive order to suspend restrictions in state law that place limitations on the source of fuel particular and branded fuel retailers are allowed to sell. The action will ease access to fuel supplies for retailers, allowing more stations to be brought online and easing the strain on those already in operation.

The order permits wholesale or retail dealers of gasoline to broaden their supply network, so long as appropriate written notice is provided at stations as to the source of the fuel, if it is not from their previously approved source. For 10 days, these restrictions will be lifted. The order does not permit wholesale or retail vendors to substitute any grade of gasoline for a higher or lower grade.

"Securing safe, timely and reliable access to fuel for our residents is critically important right now," said Christie. "I will continue to exercise every reasonable power of the governorship to ease the long waits experienced in impacted parts of our state by increasing supply, restoring power to stations, and otherwise accelerating efforts to bring as many gas stations back online as quickly as possible."

And Christie said that the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) has launched a phone and email hotline--(609) 858-6900 and [email protected]--to receive reports of problems from New Jersey gas station operators, providing a single point of contact to collect up-to-date information on station problems. The hotline is for owners and operators to self-report service problems such as power outages, fuel shortages, road access issues or other issues at their station to help officials respond more effectively to their issues. It is not able to handle the call volume from members of the general public.

"Right now, we know there is a problem with access to gas in many parts of our state as a result of impact of Hurricane Sandy, but we don't have complete information on the nature of those issues or where they are occurring," said Christie. "If a station isn't getting gas to people, we need to know, so we can direct the right resources to where they are needed. This hotline will allow us to collect this critical information on gas station issues--whether it is a supply problem, a power outage, or an issue of access due to flooding or downed trees--and help speed up our recovery efforts, period."

In the state of New York on Saturday, Governor Cuomo announced that more than eight million gallons of gasoline and other petroleum products are on hand and more than 28 million gallons are being delivered to operating New York terminals. In addition, millions of gallons have arrived in New York Harbor for delivery to terminals.

While there remains a fuel shortage throughout the region as a result of Sandy, actions to address the issue are being executed as planned, leading to more terminals being opened to barge deliveries and more petroleum products being transported throughout the metropolitan  area.

"The shortage of gasoline in the New York-metro area has caused major inconveniences for our residents, and the state must take every action possible to address this issue," Cuomo said. "Although there is much work to be done, I have directed the state to temporarily suspend gasoline distribution-related requirements so gasoline and other fuels can be transported throughout the region and New Yorkers can return to life as normal as quickly as possible."

The governor has also implemented a series of actions designed to increase fuel supplies in the hurricane-affected areas. He signed an executive order to allow distributors and transporters to bring gasoline, diesel, and kerosene into the state of New York without having to meet the usual registration requirements. By law, transporters and distributors must be registered with the State Department of Taxation & Finance. The order temporarily suspended those registration requirements.

Also, he signed an executive order to temporarily ease restrictions on vapor pressure requirements for gasoline and waive the ultra-low-sulfur diesel requirement for home-heating oil.

At the governor's direction, the state has also obtained a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on vapor recovery requirements so gasoline can be transported from petroleum terminals without power to gas stations in hurricane-affected areas.

In New York City on Friday, Mayor Bloomberg said, "National Guard units are providing motorists and people needing fuel for generators with free gasoline at four armories in our city, and also at the armory in Freeport on Long Island. There is a 10-gallon limit per vehicle."

He added, "The Buckeye pipeline, the interstate gasoline transmission line serving New York City, [on Friday] pushed 100,000 barrels of fuel into our city--the first major influx since before Sandy struck. The supply is continuing to flow, I'm happy to say, and will begin finding its way to retailers.

"One of the big problems we've had is that while gasoline is a fuel, you can't get it out of the ground and into your car unless there's another kind of fuel that's called electricity to drive the pumps. And as electricity comes back, the pumps start working and you'll have more options to find gasoline.

"As I have cautioned, it may take a few days before you see the real effects of this additional supply at your neighborhood service station. But there should be considerably less congestion on our roads from here on out.

"And once again like everything else, there's lots of different people that were involved in getting the refineries going again, the pipeline going again, the harbor, Coast Guard played a big part, [Homeland Security] Secretary [Janet] Napolitano was helpful in getting the Jones Act suspended so we have some more ships on their way with gasoline. And I'm optimistic that in a couple of days the shortage will disappear and relatively quickly--but it just does take time to get the fuel from where it starts to where we need it."