LETTER – Assembly Approves DeCroce Bill on Gasoline Availability During Emergencies

Super Storm Sandy forced a gasoline supply interruption in New Jersey that inflicted pain on many people’s lives and disrupted business activities for a week. Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, R-Morris, Essex, Passaic, sponsored legislation to help change the way fuel is sold in the state and to make more gasoline available. The General Assembly has acted on one of her bills and is waiting to act on another.

DeCroce’s bill, A-1733, allows a retailer to sell higher grade fuel at a lower price anytime during a declared emergency when the dealer runs out of lower grade fuel. Under current law, fuel must be sold at its posted price which cannot be changed more than once during a 24 hour period.

DeCroce said her legislation will allow consumers to save money. “It’s an important step to ensuring that we don’t have a repeat of the chaos we saw at gas stations during Sandy.”

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DeCroce said she hopes the Assembly leadership will consider a companion bill, A-1732, that would remove regulatory barriers to importing gasoline from nearby states during times of natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy. The legislation automatically suspends — during a declared state of emergency — the distributor’s license requirement to import or deliver motor fuel from another state into New Jersey for 10 days or a time period determined by the governor via executive order. Under the bill, non-licensed distributors must document their New Jersey sales and pay all applicable state taxes state residents.

In the aftermath of Sandy in late October 2012 fuel supplies for New Jersey refineries were interrupted, but plenty of gasoline was available from suppliers in nearby states. That gasoline, however, could not be delivered under current law.

“My objective with these two bills is to strip away some the bureaucratic rigidity we have in this state so we can better respond to people’s needs in an emergency,” said DeCroce.

DeCroce said people who waited in long lines to get gasoline in 2012 were incensed when they learned that tanker trucks were waiting at the state border to deliver gasoline, but could not because of state regulations.

“There are some regulations that simply don’t make sense; and rules that hamper gas supplies or make it difficult to sell gasoline that is available during an emergency have to be addressed,” she said.

“I’m glad my colleagues in the Assembly approved A-1733 and now I hope the Assembly leadership will move quickly on A-1732. We are in the midst of hurricane season and I am sure no one wants to live through the fuel disruptions that we did three years ago if we are hit with another major storm,” said DeCroce.