Tags: Tempers | Gasoline | Power | storm

Northeast Tempers Flare Over Gasoline Lines, Pace of Power Restoration

Friday, 02 November 2012 12:25 PM

Tempers flared over days of power outages and mile-long lines to buy gasoline in New Jersey and New York as utilities faced pressure from state officials and residents to restore service faster.

About 1.5 million customers in New Jersey, more than a third of homes and businesses, remained without electricity as of today. Sandy’s destruction has left 13 Jerseyans dead. At least three were related to the use of portable generators, said Mary Goepfert, spokeswoman for the Office of Emergency Management.

Governor Chris Christie, a first-term Republican, said 12 other governors agreed this week to send workers to New Jersey to help restore power. He said he also told utility chief executive officers yesterday that they need to speed it up.

“I made it clear to them that whatever playbooks they had were to be thrown out because we’ve never faced anything like this before,” Christie, 50, said Thursday in Moonachie, which had to be evacuated after a tidal surge from the Hackensack River flooded the Bergen County town.

Sandy’s winds and floods blacked out about two-thirds of the state. It also flooded New York City’s subways and crippled the region’s transit system.

Darkened Stations

The storm also flooded fuel terminals, curbed deliveries and left many filling stations in the dark and unable to run pumps.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday that he expects most people in his state to have power back by the end of the weekend. Gas supplies that have dwindled should come back now that the U.S. Coast Guard has reopened the Port of New York, he said in an interview on Sirius/XM satellite radio.

Two million gallons (7.6 million liters) of gasoline arrived in Newburgh, New York, Thursday night, Cuomo, a 54-year-old Democrat, said at a press conference Friday.

About 1.5 million customers in New York, or 16 percent of the state, were without power as of yesterday afternoon, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

Sitting Idle

Coney Island Avenue, a main artery in Brooklyn, was overwhelmed today with cars seeking gasoline. The line for a Hess station stretched from Church Avenue to 18th Avenue. There was also a line of about 200 people waiting with their own cans — even though the station was out of fuel. People said they were waiting for when the gas truck arrived.

Jean Jean-Laurent, 56, of Queens, said he never saw anything like this in his 27 years as a car-service driver. He said he waited two hours Thursday and was running low. “I was thinking today would be better but it isn’t,” he said.

Power restoration will open more gasoline stations and make it easier to buy fuel for vehicles and generators, Christie said Thursday.

“Many gas stations do have gas but don’t have the power to pump it,” Christie, 50, told reporters in Moonachie.

More than half of New Jersey filling stations likely are closed, Kashmir Gill, whose Creative Management Inc. owns 38 New Jersey outlets, said in a telephone interview on Oct. 31.

Keep Running

The shortage led New Jersey state Senator Barbara Buono, a Metuchen Democrat, to propose legislation that would require all filling stations to be equipped with generators to keep pumps running during power outages. Florida has such a requirement, Buono said in a statement Friday.

“Frustrated motorists shouldn’t have to wait in lines a hundred cars long,” Buono said. “It isn’t just a matter of having enough gas to get to the store or to get to work when businesses reopen. It’s a matter of public safety and health for people who need gas to keep their own generators going.”

Among the state’s 13 Sandy-related deaths, two teenage sisters were killed in Newark, New Jersey’s largest city, by carbon-monoxide poisoning caused by the improper use of a generator. Another probable generator-related death was in Middlesex County, Goepfert said.

Jersey Central Power & Light Co. had the biggest number of New Jersey customers, 718,636, without electricity, according to an 8 a.m. report from the emergency-management office. Its parent company, FirstEnergy Corp., made a $100,000 donation to the Jersey Coast chapter of the American Red Cross, according to a FirstEnergy news release.

Diesel Delivery

Christie directed state Treasury officials on Oct. 31 to waive licensing requirements that restrict out-of-state fuel purchases to boost storm-depleted supplies. The waiver will be in place until Nov. 7.

The state also was preparing for delivery today of more than 500,000 gallons of diesel fuel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Goepfert said. That supply will be directed to hospital generators and emergency equipment on the ground.

A generator failure early Friday morning at New Jersey Transit’s Kearny rail-operations center led the agency to delay restoring service on its North Jersey Coast, Raritan Valley and Main Lines. Northeast Corridor service between New York and Trenton wasn’t affected, said John Durso Jr., a spokesman.

Durso had no estimate on when the lines would be restored. The generator problem appeared to be mechanical, he said.

“We have plenty of fuel,” he said in a phone interview.

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Tempers flared over days of power outages and mile-long lines to buy gasoline in New Jersey and New York as utilities faced pressure from state officials and residents to restore service faster.
Friday, 02 November 2012 12:25 PM
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