LI gas situation improves, but not much

People line up with gas containers to gas

People line up with gas containers to gas up at Volero gas station on Montauk Highway in Mastic. (Nov. 6, 2012) (Credit: John Roca)

Lines persisted at local gasoline stations Tuesday as many were still closed for lack of fuel.

The process of getting fuel from terminals to gasoline stations remained a critical bottleneck in the process.

By one count, more stations had gasoline. The motorists group AAA estimated that 60 to 65 percent of Long Island stations were selling gas Tuesday, up from 50 to 55 percent on Monday.


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"The general sense is it is getting somewhat better," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said of the Island's gas situation at a news conference Tuesday. "Not greatly better, not getting better that fast, but it's been getting better."

At Northville Industries, whose Holtsville terminal is a major distribution point for the region, an executive said the facility was selling about 25 percent more gasoline than normal, with barge loads arriving at least once a day, each with 35,000 or 75,000 barrels. A barrel is 42 gallons.

He said a steady stream of tanker trucks has been taking on the fuel at the terminal's seven loading racks as fast as it comes in. "We're selling out our inventory every night," said the executive, who declined to be quoted by name.

But, he said, with many large terminals in New Jersey still inoperable, some major oil companies with contracts to fill up at Holtsville have been taking more loads than usual to Brooklyn and Queens, leaving less for stations on Long Island, which normally account for most of the terminal's demand. "There's a pull from the west on our terminal," he said.

Moreover, getting gasoline from terminals to stations is taking extra time. Drivers of tanker trucks have spent far longer than normal, as much as three hours, trying to fill up at Holtsville and at the Inwood gas terminal, said Brian Fioretti, a vice president of Island Transportation Corp., which delivers gasoline to stations.

When the trucks arrive at stations, they also have wait -- for up to 90 minutes -- for the crowd of gas-hungry motorists to clear a path, he said: "There is plenty of supply out there, it's just a matter of time to get it into the market."

Cuomo said Monday that panicky motorists were worsening the shortage by repeatedly topping off tanks. He has rejected an odd-even rationing system, as was imposed in New Jersey last week by Gov. Chris Christie.

Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline-Convenience-Automotive Association, said the odd-even rationing system has reduced lines dramatically. "It just helped to alleviate the panic," he said.

Meanwhile, gas prices are rising and hundreds of consumers have alleged "gouging" by stations, according to New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who said Monday his staff is investigating the claims.

Regular gasoline averaged $4.068 a gallon on Long Island Tuesday morning, the AAA said, up 2.9 cents from Monday and 17 cents from a week earlier. The website LongIslandGasPrices.com, which is based on motorist reports, showed prices for regular as high as $4.79 Tuesday afternoon.

Schneiderman said the state's price-gouging law prohibits the selling of goods or services for an "unconscionably excessive price" during an "abnormal disruption of the market." The law does not define such a price, Schneiderman said, but one might be deemed excessive if it represents a gross disparity between the current price and that before the disruption of the market. Consumers can report gouging to the attorney general's office at 800-771-7755, or online at www.ag.ny.gov.

Long Islanders' 2.6 million vehicles burn about 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline per year, according to the state.

With Joe Ryan and

William Murphy

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