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Town law requires generators at gas stations

Dozens of people wait in line at the

Dozens of people wait in line at the Mobil gas station on Sunrise Highway in Valley Stream. (Nov. 8, 2012) Credit: Steven Sunshine

The Hempstead Town board Tuesday unanimously approved a law requiring gas stations pumping more than 100,000 gallons a month to have generators as backups in case of electrical outages -- an effort to mitigate fuel shortfalls in the future.

Under the superstorm Sandy-inspired law, all newly constructed gas stations would be required to comply immediately once the law goes into effect on May 1. Existing gasoline retailers that meet the pumping minimum would have until Jan. 1, 2015, to come into compliance. Businesses with monthly sales of 100,000 gallons or less are exempt.

Similar laws were approved in Florida and Louisiana, town officials said, after hurricanes in those states.

The law -- proposed by Supervisor Kate Murray and senior Councilman Anthony Santino -- is intended to prevent long fuel lines and gasoline shortages during power outages like those endured by residents in the wake of Sandy. Both officials acknowledged that getting fuel shipments into local ports and to area gas stations was a problem, but said that several stations had gasoline that they could not pump out of their underground tanks because they didn't have electricity.

Town officials revised the legislation to apply only to stations pumping more than 100,000 gallons after requests by several gas retailer advocates and station owners during a November hearing on the proposed law.

Before the board made its decision Tuesday, advocates argued that requiring expensive generators would pose an unfair financial burden on retailers and would result in steeper prices for consumers.

"I don't think putting generators in are going to be a solution," said Kevin Beyer, president of the Long Island Gas Retailers Association. "To spend $40,000 on a piece of equipment that I would use for three days doesn't make sense . . . It is not a good return on an investment."

Adam Wolf, a Jericho-based Shell distributor, said, "Having a generator on-site doesn't mean that stations would have gas."

The town's building commissioner will outline regulations governing the type of generator required, minimum power capacity and installation standards for the on-site generators. Violators could face a $500 fine per day.

"We're giving them two years to comply," Santino said. "Two years to come up with the money . . . It is a sufficient amount of time to do that."

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