Pentagon Bringing Fuel to Relieve Gas Station Backups

Marines in Tilt-Rotor Craft Land Off Brooklyn to Aid in Recovery
The V-22 Osprey , made by Textron Inc. and Boeing Co., flies like a plane and lands like a helicopter. Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Barack Obama directed the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency to purchase as much as 22 million gallons of unleaded gasoline and diesel fuel to relieve miles-long lines at service stations after the superstorm Sandy.

“This purchase will be transported by tanker trucks and distributed throughout New York, New Jersey and other communities impacted by the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said yesterday in a statement.

The defense agency will deliver as much as 12 million gallons of unleaded gasoline and 10 million gallons of diesel fuel. It will seek as many as 120 civilian trucks for the project, Lieutenant Colonel Tom Crosson, a Pentagon spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.

With the tempers of motorists flaring and stations shutting down for lack of supplies, the Obama administration took actions including waiving a law that ordinarily permits only U.S.-flag tankers to move refined products between U.S. ports. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie imposed alternate-day fuel rationing in 12 counties based on license-plate numbers.

The price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in New Jersey yesterday was $3.56, down a penny from last week before the storm hit, according to the AAA automobile club’s daily pricing report. In New York, the price was $3.94 a gallon, two cents less than a week ago before Sandy hit.

For the Pentagon, the unaccustomed role of gas-station supplier was part of a mobilization by air, land and sea to assist in New York, New Jersey and neighboring states struggling in the aftermath of the storm that made landfall near Atlantic City on Oct. 29.

V-22 Osprey

The Defense Department “is focusing on providing unique capabilities to support civilian efforts to restore power to vital facilities and to assist with the resumption of mass transit services in the New York and New Jersey area,” the department said yesterday in a statement.

Marines in V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft arrived Nov. 1 on the deck of the USS Wasp, the first among about 320 Marines and sailors based in North Carolina deployed to three Navy warships floating about five miles off of Brooklyn, according to Captain Lucas Burke, a Marine spokesman.

The V-22, made by Textron Inc. and Boeing Co., flies like a plane and lands like a helicopter.

The Pentagon’s commitment of military equipment and personnel also included 17 cargo planes that brought equipment, vehicles and crews to help restore power.

Shipboard Housing

More than 120 high-flow water pumps and more than 400 personnel were sent to the region to help drain floodwaters, according to Crosson. The Pentagon calls that mission “un-watering.”

The Energy Department said yesterday that it was loaning the Defense Logistics Agency ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel from its Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve. The fuel will be distributed to federal, state and local responders in the New York and New Jersey area, the Energy Department said. The logistics agency estimated that it will initially draw down 2 million gallons from the reserve, the Energy Department said.

The logistics agency is also working to provide 1 million meals to New York City residents by Nov. 5, Crosson said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

The Transportation Department’s Maritime Administration is providing three vessels from the National Defense Reserve Fleet to provide housing for first responders in New York City.

MH-60 Helicopters

The Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, deployed onboard the Wasp will be capable of “providing generators, fuel, clean water, and a substantial helicopter lift capacity to aid in disaster relief efforts,” the Marine Corps said in a statement.

The two other ships, the USS San Antonio and USS Carter Hall, are each carrying one Landing Craft Utility ship-to-shore vessel.

The San Antonio is equipped with MH-60 helicopters and rescue swimmers awaiting deployment orders, Crosson said.

In addition, National Guard spokesman Rick Breitenfeldt said in an e-mail that more than 220 Air Guard and Army Guard helicopters and 50 fixed-wing aircraft were available for search and rescue, reconnaissance and cargo missions.

Among tasks taken on by the National Guard so far, the New York National Guard helped distribute 144,000 meals from distribution centers in New York City and Long Island and the New Jersey National Guard has rescued more than 2,000 people and 200 pets, according to the statement.

A combined Task Force with 41 soldiers from four states that arrived Oct. 31 and is located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey is equipped with two CH-47 Chinook helicopters and six UH-60 Black Hawks, he said.

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