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.
The president, who toured the New Jersey damage with Christie on Oct. 31, yesterday partially waived the Jones Act, which requires ships running between American ports to use U.S.- flagged vessels, to boost deliveries from Gulf Coast refineries. Allowing any ship to carry fuel between U.S. ports will temporarily help relieve a shortage of qualified vessels.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today temporarily waived federal clean diesel-fuel requirements in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and in and around New York City to allow the use of home heating oil in highway vehicles, nonroad vehicles, and nonroad equipment for emergency response.
Sandy’s winds and floods blacked out about two-thirds of New Jersey and crippled the region’s transit system. It also flooded fuel terminals, curbed deliveries and left many filling stations in the dark and unable to run pumps.
About 876,000 customers in New York, or 9 percent of those in the state, remain without power, the Energy Department said.
Some local New York officials had implemented systems earlier to limit fuel purchases by consumers.
Scott Vanderhoef, the executive of Rockland County, about 40 miles north of Manhattan, issued an order yesterday limiting drivers to 10 gallons of gas or diesel fuel each day per vehicle. Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano issued a similar order for New York’s fourth-largest city on Nov. 1.
Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, said the state’s biggest issue is the lack of power at gasoline stations, not supply. There were lines in Fairfield County yesterday as people from New York and New Jersey came looking for gas, Doba said. The New Haven terminal is open and “we are able to replenish stations on a fairly regular basis,” he said.
“As more stations are brought online, we’ll be able to ease some of the congestion,” Doba said in an e-mail today. “The entire region will be better off once the New York facilities get up and running.”
The fuel shortage in New York resulted from ports being shut because officials feared shipping containers blown into the water by Sandy would damage passing vessels, Cuomo said. Some sea lanes were reopened in New York’s harbor Nov. 1. Most of the terminals that were knocked out, including the one in Port Jefferson on Long Island, were back online with generators.
Eight million gallons of fuel have been delivered, and 28 million gallons will arrive in the next two days, Cuomo said.
Hess Corp. and Gulf Oil LP have agreed to begin delivering more gasoline to New Jersey retailers, Christie said. He said that his administration issued subpoenas to 65 businesses, including those that sell fuel and generators, after receiving more than 500 consumer complaints about price gouging.
Christie, 50, said 12 other governors agreed this week to send workers to his state to help restore power. He said he also told utility chief executive officers Nov. 1 that they need to speed repairs.
At least 22 people in New Jersey died from the storm, part of an estimated national death toll of at least 105. Two teenage sisters in Newark, New Jersey’s largest city, died from carbon-monoxide poisoning caused by the improper use of a generator, while an Edison man died of the same cause.
In New Jersey this morning, the wait for gasoline was a half hour at the Hess Express on Route 1 north in South Brunswick. Two police officers were directing cars to open pumps.
Michael Bastin, the 31-year-old owner of a bakery in Brooklyn, was filling five 5-gallon gas containers to fuel his generators. He has 14 cans in all, most borrowed.
“I’ll get maybe a day out of this,” he said as he loaded the containers into his white van, pausing to show photos of his fondant creations. “I’m going to go back to the bakery and then come right back here.”