NJ – Governor Chris Christie ordered rationing of gasoline sales in 12 New Jersey counties while Governor Andrew Cuomo sought to boost supplies in New York to help reduce miles-long lines at filling stations.
President Barack Obama also took steps yesterday to alleviate the region’s fuel shortage, including waiving a law that ordinarily permits only U.S.-flag tankers to move refined products between U.S. ports.
“Fuel is on its way,” Cuomo, a 54-year-old Democrat, said at a Manhattan press conference today. “You don’t have to panic. We don’t need anxiety. We don’t need the lines.”
Tempers in New Jersey and New York have flared over days of power outages and difficulties buying gasoline for vehicles and portable electric generators. Utilities are under pressure from state officials and residents to restore service faster. About 1.2 million customers in New Jersey remain without power five days after Hurricane Sandy barreled into the region.
The outages have shut fuel depots across New Jersey. Only 30 percent of stations are operating north of Interstate 195, which runs through the center of the state, while 95 percent of those south of that road are open, Christie told reporters today in Little Ferry.
Christie late yesterday ordered rationing in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Morris, Monmouth, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties. Vehicles with license plates ending in odd numbers can be fueled on odd- numbered days, while those ending in even numbers can get gas on even-numbered days, starting at noon today.
The governor, a first-term Republican, pledged to send police to stations to “vigorously” enforce the order, which he said should only last “a few days.” The rule doesn’t apply to people filling containers with fuel for generators.
At 11:50 a.m., the line into the BP filling station on Route 46 in Lodi stretched almost a mile. A Bergen County sheriff’s officer, who declined an interview because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media, directed drivers to open bays. Shortly after noon, some drivers with even-numbered plates started to leave the shoulder and return to the highway.
“If they were on the property at noon, it’s OK,” said Robert Celikbas, 32, from Upper Saddle River, who co-owns the station and its convenience store and Dunkin’ Donuts franchise with his father. “Now we’re not letting anyone in the entrance without an even plate.”
Al Jacobs, owner of Short Hills Auto in Millburn Township, opened his Sunoco station with a portable generator this afternoon. He said he had served only “a couple” of customers when police showed up and commandeered 5,000 gallons for municipal use. Filling the order will take until this evening and he is unlikely to begin selling to consumers until tomorrow, he said. That didn’t deter a dozen drivers from lining up.
“The town is under a state of emergency,” said Jacobs. “You can’t fight City Hall.”
Christie also suspended restrictions on out-of-state fuel purchases, and said the state and Federal Emergency Management Agency will deliver generators to filling stations. Cuomo waived taxes and regulations to accommodate more fuel tankers and process supplies more quickly.
Cuomo sent 5,000-gallon U.S. Department of Defense fuel trucks to five locations today in New York City and Long Island. Those mobile-fueling stations are currently closed to the public so that emergency personnel and first responder vehicles can use them, said Eric Durr, a spokesman for the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs.
New Jersey and New York also can expect delivery of 2 million gallons (7.6 million liters) of ultra-low-sulfur diesel from the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve to power emergency- response equipment. The fuel, from a depot in Connecticut, will be the first since the 42 million-gallon system was set up in 2000, according to the U.S. Energy Department.
Obama also directed the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency to purchase as much as 22 million gallons of unleaded gasoline and diesel fuel and transport it by tanker trucks throughout New York, New Jersey and other communities affected by the storm, FEMA said yesterday in a statement.
Source: BUSINESS WEEK