Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Friday moved to reassure New Yorkers millions of gallons of gasoline are about to flow as he explained the series of events that had led to gas shortages in the wake of superstorm Sandy.
The state, working with the federal government, announced a set of measures that will free up gas flow in aftermath of Sandy, which closed the Port of New York, crippling supply.
"There is no reason to panic, there is no reason for anxiety," the governor said.
"We understand why there was a shortage. We also understand why it's going to be better, and better in the near future. We ask for a little patience once again," he said, adding the situation should improve within the next day or two.
Cuomo also announced the immediate supply of $100 million in state aid toward reconstruction and repair for homeowners.
On gasoline scarcity, Cuomo said the problem was driven by debris that filled New York Harbor during the storm. Containers were blown off ships and off the ports, some of which were underwater and not visible to ship navigators, creating a hazard, he said.
"The decision was made to close the port," Cuomo said. "This created a backlog of vessels that were trying to get into the harbor."
On Thursday, the Coast Guard reopened the harbor so tankers carrying fuel could progress up the harbor.
"To the extent there was a shortage of fuel, that's because there is a shortage of fuel," Cuomo said. "The tankers couldn't get into the harbor."
Friday tankers are now in the harbor and are making progress getting fuel into the distribution system, Cuomo said.
A barge carrying 2 million gallons made it to Newburgh at 2 a.m. A barge also got through the East River to bring fuel to Long Island, he said.
Generators have been brought in to terminals that lost power so that they can begin pumping gasoline from the ships and barges, including both the Buckeye Pipeline, and the Port Jefferson Terminal on Long Island.
"I have just signed an executive order that waives the state's requirements that fuel tankers register and pay a tax before unloading," Cuomo said. "I don't like to waive the tax, I don't want to lose the money, but we do want to accelerate the flow of the gasoline and that's more important."
Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Friday that the Department of Homeland Security issued a temporary, blanket waiver of the Jones Act, allowing "additional oil tankers coming from the Gulf of Mexico to enter Northeastern ports, to provide additional fuel resources to the region."
The waiver, in effect through Nov. 13, "will remove a potential obstacle to bringing additional fuel" to the area, by allowing additional ships that otherwise would be barred, to begin shipping petroleum to ports in the Northeast from the Gulf of Mexico, Napolitano said in a statement.
With Rosemary Olander