'Gradual increase in gas supply' promised

Lines at the Mobil station on Route 110 Lines at the Mobil station on Route 110 and Smith Street in Melville as a gas truck arrives. (Nov. 2, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday

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Gasoline lines across Long Island stretched out longer on Friday, as frustrated motorists found the few stations that had received supplies, and key government officials promised relief was on the way.

Police in Nassau and Suffolk counties said there were scores of disputes at gas stations as motorists lined up for fuel. Mostly, though, the lines were peaceful -- but long enough to fray nerves.

Meanwhile, key pipelines from the Gulf of Mexico region to New Jersey and out to Nassau County reopened, the U.S. Department of Energy said. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed an order Thursday night to allow distributors and transporters to bring fuel into the state without meeting the usual requirement to register with the state Department of Taxation and Finance.

Also, Department of Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano announced that the department had issued a temporary waiver of the Jones Act, which requires ships moving goods between U.S. ports to use U.S.-flag vessels, to allow "additional oil tankers" to enter Northeast ports. And President Barack Obama on Friday directed the Defense Logistics Agency to purchase up to 12 million gallons of unleaded fuel and up to 10 million gallons of diesel fuel to distribute in Sandy-stricken areas.

These developments led to optimism that the crisis would soon ease.

"There will be a gradual increase in gas supply over the next three days that is in line with our demand," said Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano. He said the county is providing emergency responders with direct access to fuel.

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Cuomo tried to reassure New Yorkers that millions of gallons of gasoline are about to flow. "There should be a real change in the condition, and people should see it quickly," Cuomo said at a news conference.

But experts said that because many neighborhood gas stations still lack electrical power to pump gas, difficulties finding fuel would continue.

At stations that were open, some prices had increased from earlier in the week. The AAA said regular averaged $3.965 on Long Island on Friday, up 4.8 cents from the day before and 6.6 cents from a week earlier.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone urged residents to conserve gasoline by staying home -- or close to it -- this weekend.

At the Citgo on East Hoffman Avenue in Lindenhurst, cars were lined up for nearly a mile just after noon. Drivers at the front of the line said they had been waiting almost three hours. Pedestrians with gas cans said their wait was about two hours. A handful of state troopers were at the station, and tensions were high.

"Everybody's freaking out," said Krista Wright, 20, of Lindenhurst. "If anyone tries to get in front of them on line, they start fights."

Day laborer Tony Brown, 53, of Medford, ran out of gas after waiting for 3 1/2 hours on line at a USA station on Route 112 in Medford. A police officer and a bystander helped push his Honda Accord to the pumps. He took it all calmly. "You can't get angry over gas," Brown said.

At some stations with no gas, people lined up anyway in the hope that delivery trucks would arrive. Kevin Beyer, president of the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association, said 60 cars were lined up outside his station in Smithtown on Friday afternoon, even though the station had no power and no gas.

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Supplies ran out at local gasoline stations because two of six East Coast refineries in Sandy's path shut down as the storm approached, and because the Port of New York was closed because of large floating debris. Both factors starved local distribution terminals for gas.

The port reopened Thursday. Cuomo said generators had been brought in to terminals that lost power so that they could begin pumping gasoline from ships and barges. Bloomberg News reported that tankers of gasoline had been waiting outside New York Harbor since Oct. 28 to unload their cargoes.

Stephen Keshtgar, who operates about 50 stations on Long Island and in Queens, said Thursday that he was getting only about 10 percent of the 220,000 to 250,000 gallons a day he normally sells.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said a barge load of 1 million gallons of gas was expected to arrive at Northville Industry's Holtsville Terminal on Saturday, with further deliveries due Sunday and Monday.

Bishop also said a terminal in Oyster Bay opened Friday, with 2 million gallons of gasoline on site and the capacity to accept barge deliveries.

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Helping ease the crisis, the Colonial Pipeline, which brings fuel from the Gulf region to Linden, N.J., had resumed shipping gasoline. The Buckeye Pipeline from Linden to New York City and Long Island also reopened.

The Hess refinery in Port Reading, N.J., and the Phillips 66 refinery in Linden remained closed on Friday. Hess Corp. said, however, that more than 90 percent of its service stations were open in New York, Long Island and New Jersey -- 177 of 186 stations, some on generator power.

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