2 NJ bills aim to prevent repeat of Sandy gas woes

NJ Senate to take up 2 bills aimed at helping to prevent repeat of Sandy gas woes

Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- For days, New Jerseyans stocked their shelves with food and supplies to prepare for Sandy, a storm that proved as bad as forecast. But no one was prepared to deal with another crisis that stopped people in their tracks: a shortage of fuel for their cars and trucks.

The storm damaged ports that accept fuel tankers and flooded underground equipment that sends fuel through pipelines. Without power, fuel terminals couldn't pump gasoline onto tanker trucks and gas stations couldn't get deliveries, creating miles-long lines at stations that did have fuel. Gov. Chris Christie imposed rationing in 12 counties.

Now, lawmakers are trying to cut some of the red tape that they say aggravated the situation, with two bills that will be taken up Monday by the Senate Transportation Committee.

One would waive a requirement that New Jersey distributors also be licensed in another state if they need to obtain gas from that state.

A second bill would make it legal for gas stations that run out of regular-grade fuel to sell premium gas at regular prices without facing penalties.

The exemptions would take effect whenever the governor declares an energy emergency.

The bills are co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Jennifer Beck of Monmouth County and Democratic Sen. Robert Gordon of Passaic and Bergen counties.

The bills aim to address regulations that delayed fuel deliveries and to protect gas stations that choose to sell gas cheaper in an effort to help the average New Jerseyan, the sponsors said. The state Division of Consumer Affairs said no stations have been penalized for selling cheaper gas.

"These bills are meant to improve our ability to respond to large-scale emergencies and are based on lessons learned on Hurricane Sandy," Gordon said.

The distribution bill is vital to ensure out-of-state deliveries are made more quickly, said Eric DeGesero, executive vice president of the Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey. Under current law, distributors are required to be licensed both by New Jersey and the state from where the delivery is coming from.

"This is an essential part of ensuring that if, God forbid, this ever happened again, we could get fuel back in the state as quickly as possible," DeGesero said.

DeGesero said the gas pricing bill, however, is unlikely to have an effect. He said it would be highly unusual for gas stations to decide to sell gas they paid more money for at a cheaper rate.

"I can't see anybody that would sell something lower than its cost was," he said.

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