Millions of gallons of gas flow to LI, but lines remain long

Gasoline tankers take on fuel at Northville Industries Gasoline tankers take on fuel at Northville Industries on Union Avenue in Holtsville. (Nov. 6, 2012) Photo Credit: James Carbone

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Millions of gallons of gasoline are arriving daily on Long Island, but there's little relief for exasperated motorists, and neither station operators nor Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo can say for sure when the long waits will finally end.

The governor said at a news conference Tuesday people are buying more gas than usual, which is compounding the issue. He noted the coming storm, if severe, could also complicate the gas situation. 

"We're considering our options," the governor said.

On Monday, the governor said that gas is arriving here and that he spoke with President Barack Obama about easing restrictions to speed more deliveries from neighboring Connecticut, as well as Delaware and other nearby states. But it remains unclear, Cuomo said, when the shortage will be over.

"No one can give us a good estimate," he said.

Much of Long Island's gas arrives via barge from New Jersey and elsewhere, is unloaded at Port Jefferson and Inwood, then stored at terminals before being trucked to service stations. The supply dried up following the storm, as pipelines, refineries and terminals shut down. Gas stations lost power. Debris left New York Harbor impassable.

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Now the harbor has reopened, and millions of gallons of fuel are arriving daily at Port Jefferson, according to an executive with Northville Industries, which operates a terminal in Holtsville. But it will take time for the incoming supply to catch up with the wild demand, said the executive, who declined to give a name.

The wait is frustrating for motorists and station owners alike.

"Things are not getting better. We are just not getting deliveries," said Stephen Keshtgar, who operates about 50 stations on Long Island and in Queens. All have electricity, but as of 1 p.m. Monday, only two had gas, he said.

Now that there is gas to distribute, the terminals are overwhelmed with tankers, which stand in line for hours waiting to be filled, said one driver who declined to be identified. Deliveries are taking longer, too, because gas stations are packed with cars and SUVs waiting for a fill, making it impossible for the tankers to pull in.

Panicky motorists, meanwhile, continue to worsen the shortage by repeatedly topping off tanks, making it difficult for the supply of gasoline to catch up with the demand, Cuomo said.

Evidence of the shortage remained stark Monday in Deer Park, where lines of cars snaked in different directions from two stations at the corner of Deer Park Avenue and Grand Boulevard. The wait on one line was an hour; on the other it was 30 minutes. Those lines were shorter, motorists said, than those of several days ago.

"I think it's already better," said John Minetti, 31, of Deer Park, as he waited for an open pump at one of the stations.

Still, nerves at service stations continue to wear thin. In East Setauket, a teenager was arrested Monday, accused of threatening an attendant with a folding knife because the station was out of high-octane fuel, police said. Jared Giacolone, 17, faces charges of menacing and criminal possession of a weapon, police said.

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Despite the shortage, the average price of regular gas on Long Island was $4.039 a gallon Monday -- down 10 cents compared with a month ago, AAA said.

In response to "hundreds of complaints," New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced an investigation into storm-related price gouging.

In Ronkonkoma, Suffolk County Police charged a fuel company owner with setting up shop in a parking lot and selling gas out of a delivery truck for $4.80 a gallon. Robert Faulkner, of Direct Marine Fuel Corp., was ticketed, accused of handling flammable liquids without a permit and improperly dispensing flammable liquids. He denied he was breaking any law, saying his permits allow him to distribute fuel.

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