By Phil Corso
Fuel remained in high demand more than two weeks after Hurricane Sandy swept her way through Queens as gas stations worked to restore electricity and provide relief to residents who had waited in long lines before the city imposed gas rationing.
In an effort to prevent another gasoline crisis derived from stations losing power, state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) teamed up with another legislator to propose a bill requiring gas stations to have backup power sources.
“It just makes common sense to be proactive and prepared for these increasingly destructive storms,” Weprin said. “It isn’t good for anyone to be unprepared, but especially our gas stations because of our reliance on gasoline.”
Weprin said long lines outside borough gas stations were not so much because of a shortage in fuel, but instead because of a shortage in options for drivers. The lawmaker joined with state Sen. David Carlucci (D-Nanuet) to draft legislation that would require gas stations to stock up to prevent long-term power outages in any future storms or disasters.
“If we can find a way to prepare for a disaster, we should do it,” Weprin said. “I will do my part in Albany to see this bill becomes law long before another Hurricane Sandy.”
The bill, Weprin said, was modeled after another that passed in Florida nearly five years ago, which required gas stations and wholesalers to have a generator capable of supplying at least 72 hours of power in the event of an emergency. In both bills, Weprin said stations would be required to have the generator source power available for use no later than one day after a major disaster.
As motorists scrambled for fuel and spent hours on line, Mayor Michael Bloomberg put gas rationing into effect Friday at 6 a.m.
The supply of gasoline throughout the city has become an ongoing issue since Hurricane Sandy and the following nor’easter brought winds, rainfall and snow to the borough beginning Oct. 29.
City Comptroller John Liu urged lawmakers last week to work to expedite the supplying of fuel throughout the city.
“The gas crisis is well beyond being a mere inconvenience,” Liu said. “People depend on gasoline to go to work, run their businesses and to provide care for children and the elderly. The shortage has become a serious economic and public safety issue.”
Liu said the long lines that formed outside gas stations have put a drain on city residents, estimating the problem cost about $100 million in wasted time that could have been devoted to more productive work.
To prevent another crisis in which long lines form outside gas stations in the city, Weprin’s bill would require that gas stations within a half mile of an interstate highway or state/federally designated evacuation route must maintain operations at all of its fuel pumps using an alternative power source, the assemblyman said.
According to Weprin, another storm like Sandy could potentially damage the city’s ports and make resupplying fuel sources much more difficult when it is needed the most.
“We all need to be able to function as quickly as possible after a storm strikes,” Weprin said. “This is very serious.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.