UPDATE: The Obama administration is ordering the purchase of up to 12 million gallons of unleaded fuel and up to 10 million gallons of diesel fuel for distribution in areas impacted by Superstorm Sandy to supplement private sector efforts.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Friday that President Barack Obama has directed the Defense Logistics Agency to handle the purchase of the fuel. It will be transported by tanker trucks and distributed throughout New York, New Jersey and other communities impacted by the storm.
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said the fuel purchase is part of efforts by governments, private organizations and others to help the region recover from the weather disaster.
This purchase is in addition to an emergency diesel fuel loan from the Energy Department’s Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve.
Federal, state and local officials are urging the public to remain calm as gas shortages in the wake of Hurricane Sandy has gripped Long Island and the region, in some cases inciting violence as drivers wait hours to fill up their vehicles or gas cans for their generators.
New York State Gov. Cuomo signed an executive order Thursday night easing registration requirements on distributors and transporters to expedite gasoline, diesel and kerosene shipments. Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone urged residents to conserve gas by staying home and only driving locally through the weekend until the issue is resolved.
“Today’s challenge is making sure the fuel is being delivered to the terminals, and the fuel trucks are getting into the terminals and the fuel trucks are getting gas out of the terminals and into the gas stations,” Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) said Friday morning. He said 70 percent of LI’s gas stations are blacked out and called on the state and FEMA to bring them generators.
Drivers have bee waiting on lines more than seven blocks long in some cases, sometimes coming to blows, as patience wears thin. A New York City man was accused of pulling a gun on a gas line. Police have been called in to keep the peace at the few gas stations open for business.
The ports for fuel are open, but some gas stations with power have no gas while others with gas have no power, so their pumps don’t work. Officials have also urged the Long Island Power Authority to ensure gas stations and gas terminals are prioritized while about half of LI remained blacked out four days after Sandy.
A spokeswoman for Congressman Israel said LIPA restored power to the Northville Terminal at Port Jefferson on Friday evening, the Buckeye Pipeline from Linden, NJ to NYC-LI is expected to flow starting Friday and the Inwood Global Terminal has gas on site and is receiving a generator to get the facility operational by Friday afternoon.
She added that The Oyster Bay Terminal, where 2 million gallons of gas on site, is opening “soon” and can accept barge deliveries, she said. The Hess Brooklyn Terminal is also expected to open soon.
A barge carrying 2.7 million gallons of gas is is expected to arrive Friday at the Newburgh Global Terminal as well. The Hess Port Reading Terminal is expecting 1 million gallons of gas on Saturday, 1.5 million on Sunday, and 1.5 million on Monday, the spokeswoman said.
Bellone said Friday that he has ordered gas station owners to limit customers to fill just one tank of gas per visit and for those customers without power, up to an additional 10 gallons of gas permitted per visit until further notice.
“The entire fuel supply line was bottlenecked,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a press conference Friday as he outlined steps taken to alleviate the shortage. The Department of Homeland Security has waived a tax on tankers from the Gulf of Mexico to help ease the congestion.
Authorities have also warned gas station owners and other businesses against price gouging. Those who increase prices amid the shortages will be prosecuted, they said.
Cuomo told New Yorkers not to panic because he said relief is on its way. He predicted that many motorists will start seeing a change at the pumps starting Friday tonight.
-With Spencer Rumsey