ALBANY, N.Y. -- Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed new legislation to protect New York residents from gasoline shortages during natural disasters. This legislation would create the strongest backup power law in the nation for critical gas stations, he said, preventing long lines and station closures in the event of power outages.
He also directed the New York Department of State and the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets to work together to ensure consumers are protected against potential unfair practices at gasoline pumps as fuel costs rise across the nation. In response, the Department of State's Division of Consumer Protection has launched a toll-free hotline and website for New Yorkers to report suspected price gouging at gas stations.
"New York State must learn the lessons from Superstorm Sandy so that we are better prepared for the future," Cuomo said in announcing the generator plan, which"will prevent the long lines, delays and frustrations caused by gas stations being forced to close when they lose power."
The proposed legislation builds on recommendations from the NYS Ready Commission that Cuomo empanelled late last year, and it was developed with input from local government officials and private-sector station owners. It will be submitted to the state legislature in the 30-day budget amendments.
Under the governor's proposal:
- All gas stations within a half-mile of highway exits and hurricane evacuation routes will be required to have a transfer switch installed by March 1, 2014, and to deploy and install a generator within 24 hours of losing power during a fuel supply or energy emergency. A transfer switch means a station is prewired to hook up a backup generator to power the pumps and other critical equipment. This requirement applies to approximately one-third of all stations in the state.
- In addition, chains with 10 or more stations under common ownership in any region of the state will be required to install a transfer switch for an additional 50% of their stations by March 1, 2016, and must deploy and install a generator to these stations within 48 hours of losing power during a fuel supply or energy emergency. This requirement applies to an additional approximately 15% of stations.
- As of March 1, 2014, all newly constructed stations or stations that have major renovations will be required to have a transfer switch or backup generator installed.
Approximately half of all stations in New York will be covered by these back-up power requirements. Small gas stations will be eligible for an exemption under the law.
To protect the public without placing an unfair burden on stations--many of which are small businesses--the proposal provides grants of up to $10,000 per station to help owners install a transfer switch and purchase a backup generator. These resources will come primarily from federal mitigation funds.
If enacted, the new law will supersede local ordinances and regulations, creating one set of rules, Cuomo said.
A station that fails to have a backup generator in place will face a penalty of up to $2,000 per day. The penalty will not apply if the station was unable to have backup power because of factors like the roads being closed to protect public safety or the station being inoperable due to damage or flooding.
Kevin Beyer, president of the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association, said, "On behalf of the over 800 LIGRA members, I commend Governor Cuomo for his measured approach to ensuring the supply and availability of gasoline and diesel fuel to emergency responders and the public in the aftermath of a major storm or power outage. By designating service stations located in key areas and providing their owners with financial assistance to equip them with emergency backup power, the prospects for safe and orderly recovery from future large scale disasters will be greatly enhanced. I look forward to our ongoing collaboration with the Governor and his staff as the details of the statewide initiative are worked out and the program fully implemented."
Karen Moreau, executive director of the New York State Petroleum Council, which represents all segments of the oil and gas industry in New York State, said, "Governor Cuomo's smart approach to improve preparedness will help avoid the long lines and chaos too many New Yorkers experienced after Sandy. We all recognize that fuel distribution during a disaster is a vital component to helping communities recover after a storm, but Governor Cuomo is taking concrete steps now so we are all ready when it really matters. Our members are committed to protecting the environment, continuously improving response plans and returning gas station operations as quickly and safely as possible after a storm."
Peter Kischak, president of the Service Station Dealers of Greater New York, which represents 1,800 station owners from the Bronx to New Baltimore, said, "This proposal strikes the right balance to meet the needs of New York consumers and the industry. We applaud Governor Cuomo's leadership and looking forward to working with the governor and the legislature to develop this program."
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