Long Island Bills Call for Backup Power at Gas Stations

Legis. Steve Stern (D-Huntington) (L.) and Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) (R.) announce bi-county legislation that would require gas stations to have back up power in the event of a major storm.

Two legislators from Nassau and Suffolk counties paired up Tuesday to call for a requirement on gas stations to be equipped with backup power to prevent another gas crisis like the one that gripped Long Island for days following Superstorm Sandy.

They proposed legislation requiring  gas stations to install “transfer switches” that would keep fuel pumping even if another massive storm causes another widespread blackout.


The bills authored by Nassau Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) and Suffolk Legis. Steve Stern (D-Huntington) would force gas stations to install a manual override, battery-powered pumps or a generator.

“Our legislation is designed to stop and prevent a power outage from becoming a gas shortage,” Denenberg said during a press conference outside a Hess gas station in Plainview.

After Sandy walloped the area two weeks ago and knocked out power to most homes and businesses on LI, approximately 80 percent of gas stations lost power and were unable to pump fuel even though they were well stocked, Denenberg said.

The gas shortage, which spawned huge lines at the pump and also prompted a few testy moments from storm-weary residents, forced officials to implement an odd/even rule on Long Island and New York City to ration gas.

Dozens of people lined up at a Hess gas station in Syosset Nov. 8, 2012 to fill up containers and cans for generators and fuel tanks. It was the same day county executives from both Nassau and Suffolk counties announced Long Island would begin rationing gas by odd and even days and license plate numbers. (Dan O’Regan/Long Island Press)

Stern said the ongoing crisis continues to “demonstrate the vulnerability of our fuel distribution system here throughout Long Island.”

“Gas stations had the fuel right below their feet but just didn’t have the power and didn’t have the ability to pump,” he added.

A lack of power wasn’t the only thing keeping the fuel from flowing.

New York City and Long Island were cut off from the gas supply for several days following the storm because key ports were shut down.

Both lawmakers maintained that backup power would’ve lessened the blow at the pump.

“If you have an alternate generation source…you can continue to dispense gasoline even if there is a power outage,” said Denenberg.

The legislators called on state and federal officials to offer grants to gas stations that may be leery of paying for new systems.

Stern is looking to the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency to assist local gas stations. The IDA board will introduce a proposal at next week’s board meeting that would create a sales tax exemption to implement the new law, if passed.

Both bills include a $500 fine for those who don’t comply with the proposed requirements.

If passed, the law would go into effect in Nassau on July 1, 2013. Stern’s proposal would be implemented six months after its approved by the legislature.

Denenberg noted that the proposal mimics a similar law in Florida that requires alternate power at gas stations.

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