Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes said today he has put a halt to a state practice that enabled scores of commercial interests to obtain up to five times more gasoline during the current shortage than they used a year ago.
The governor announced his action hours after The Washington Post revealed that more than 135 special-interest users - from pleasure boat marinas to ice cream vendors - were aided by the Maryland Energy Policy Office in buying more than two million gallons of gasoline.
Hughes told a news conference here he had ordered state energy officials to forward all applications for such special purchases to the federal Department of Energy as federal officials said they should have been doing all along.
State records showed that the Maryland energy office granted almost all of the special users' requests without validating the businesses' claims and without obtaining the required federal approval.
"That practice has stopped - as of today," Hughes told reporters. He said he had an aide call the state energy office after he read the Post story.
"I think it's apparently obvious this problem (of allocations) will be with us for some time," and there have got to be some changes made," Hughes said.
The special users included a car dealer, who doubled fuel allocation from last year to offer fillups with the cars he sells, and a contractor who said he needed more gasoline for company vehicles that included two new Cadillacs and a new Lincoln Continental, the Post story reported today.
Other beneficiaries of the practice were a Baltimore marina supplying gasoline for 40-foot yachts and a home builder in Leonardtown who said he needed gasoline to attend trade association meetings in Washington.
The Post also had reported earlier this month that the Energy Policy Office allocated nearly half of its emergency fuel reserves to middlemen suppliers without checking the validity of their claims.
Bob Tomar, regional director of fuel allocations for the federal Energy Department had criticized state officials for what he called unfair practices and said they had no authority to make the gasoline assignments without his department's approval.