After Sandy, New York will hold strategic gasoline reserves

October 28, 2013

A car is submerged in the Dumbo section of the Brooklyn borough of New York, as the East River overflows during hurricane Sandy, on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012 (Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press)

A year after Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Northeast, cutting power and causing billions in damages, the state of New York is taking steps to build backup systems in the event of another catastrophic storm.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Saturday that the state would begin holding as much as 3 million gallons of fuel in reserve at a site on Long Island, a response to long lines and service disruptions New Yorkers experienced after Hurricane Sandy disrupted supply lines across the Atlantic seaboard.

“The gap in gasoline supplies during Superstorm Sandy was incredibly disruptive to the daily routines of New Yorkers who needed to get to school and work as well as the operations of businesses during an already difficult time,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The state will spend $10 million on the pilot program, which will use facilities owned by Northville Industries, a Long Island company. In the event of a disaster, first responders will get first access to the fuel, followed by residents.

New York is the first state to establish its own fuel reserves.

Earlier this year, Cuomo launched Fuel NY, an initiative aimed at preventing a repeat of the disruptions Sandy caused. As part of the initiative, about half the gas stations in New York City, Long Island, Westchester and Rockland counties will be required to maintain backup power systems, many by as early as 2014. The state will provide as much as $10,000 per site to help the stations install the power systems.

The federal government keeps more than 694 million barrels of fuel in a strategic reserve in four sites on the Gulf of Mexico, enough to fuel the nation for more than a month in the event of an emergency.

States up and down the Eastern Seaboard are still recovering from Sandy, which came ashore in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut a year ago Tuesday. The National Climatic Data Center estimated the cost of Sandy at $65 billion, behind only Hurricane Katrina on the list of costliest disasters ever to hit the United States.

And the costs are still growing: A report released last week by the Rutgers-Newark School of Public Affairs and Administration estimate New Jersey still faces $28.3 billion in unmet recovery needs. The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it has approved more than 182,000 applications for disaster assistance, Bloomberg reported. FEMA said it has paid out $8.3 billion in federal assistance to New York, and almost $5.7 billion to New Jersey.

Reid Wilson covers national politics and Congress for The Washington Post. He is the author of Read In, The Post’s morning tip sheet on politics.
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