Nassau bill seeks alternative power for gas stations

The snow comes down as customers fill their The snow comes down as customers fill their cars up with gas at the Mobil Station on Mannetto Hill Road in Plainview. (Nov. 7, 2012) Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

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Nassau Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) filed legislation Wednesday requiring all county gas stations within six months to have an alternative-energy source to pump gasoline if the electricity should go out in the future.

The alternative power source could be a manual-, battery- or generator-operated pump.

The law, co-sponsored by Nassau's eight other Democratic legislators, is modeled on a Florida law that requires gas stations to have a manually operated pump in the event of power loss from hurricanes or other natural disasters.

Long gas lines faced by motorists on Long Island first occurred when some gas stations lost power during superstorm Sandy and were unable to pump fuel. Supply problems emerged when the few stations that had electricity were emptied by Long Islanders eager to fill their cars or stoke generators.

"Long Islanders already suffering from a lack of electricity did not have to suffer from a lack of gas while stations with gas in the ground couldn't pump," Denenberg said Wednesday. "For the first week, three times as many gas stations would have been open and operational. Even now, there are stations that are not operational."

Kevin Beyer, president of the Long Island Gas Retailers Association, said his organization would oppose any law that requires operators to install and pay for alternative-energy sources at their stations.

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"If they want to find the money, we'll be more than happy to ask volunteers to sign up for something like that," Beyer said. "You're not going to force people who have been in business and are struggling to stay afloat to put an unfunded mandate on us. We will fight an unfunded mandate."

Beyer suggested lawmakers sit down with the industry to come up with a well-researched plan that includes moving gas stations to high priority on LIPA's power-restoration list.

Denenberg said he believed stations could access state or federal emergency grants to help pay for converting a pump to manual or other power source.

"Being out of business for several days is costly for them, too," Denenberg said. "For all the federal and state money that has been expended for emergency response to this gas shortage, it seems this would be money well spent in forward planning."

Denenberg said he got the idea from his travels by car in Florida.

"I recalled that when I filled up in Florida, I questioned why I couldn't get a pump to work and someone showed me it was on manual override. As an engineer, I asked, 'How does it work?' It was easy."

When Sandy hit Long Island, he said, "I looked up the law. It's clear they don't want a power-outage-imposed gas shortage. That's what we had."

The law would require stations to have an alternative energy source to pump gas for 72 hours after a power outage of two hours or more by June 1.

Stations would be required to have the alternative pump by June 1, 2013. They would be required on stations built after Jan. 1. Gas stations built after Jan. 1 would be required to include an appropriate transfer switch to alternative power in their design.

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