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NJ lawmakers take aim at future gas shortages

By Catherine Hawley, Reporter, @CatherineH_WFMZ, chawley@wfmz.com
Published On: Nov 07 2012 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 09 2012 05:25:08 AM CST

Drivers living in areas ravaged by Sandy are still struggling to find gas.

PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. -

Drivers living in areas ravaged by Sandy are still struggling to find gas. The storm knocked out power to hundreds of gas stations in the Garden State, causing long lines of folks on the quest to fuel up.

"We lost power for a short while," said Phillipsburg, New Jersey Shell Manager Syed Karim. "Then when power came back, all the gasoline got sold because everyone was running short, they were running behind."

Stations across New Jersey sat in the dark on hundreds of gallons of gas. Having no power to work the pumps cost the companies thousands in lost sales.

"I'm pretty sure there was a significant loss," added Karim.

Now state lawmakers have vowed to introduce legislation aimed at preventing shortages in future disasters. A bill is in the works to mandate gas stations maintain an on-site generator that could power at least one pump so folks can fuel up even when the power's out.

"The concept is to get generators on these facilities so that they can get access to that fuel," explained Assemblyman Scott Rumana.

While some New Jersey station owners are on board with the idea, the gas station industry is already threatening to fight back, complaining it shouldn't be required to secure its own power supply when other industries don't face similar mandates. Installation of the generator could cost more than $20,000.

"I am very sympathetic to the fact that most of these gas stations are small business owners," said Rumana. "We are not trying to saddle them with extreme costs."

He says a program offering small business loans or low interest loans to gas stations might be the way to go.

"I think we're getting way ahead of ourselves because that's way too much money to invest in one particular incident," shared Karim. "What happens next year, what if there's no storm, you just wasted all that money."

Florida and Louisiana already mandate gas stations be equipped with generators, and a similar bill is being drafted in New York.