Assembly Panel OK’s Eustace, Wagner & Johnson Bill Package to Help Avert Future Fuel Shortages like One Caused by Sandy

A bipartisan bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, Connie Wagner and Gordon Johnson to help avoid the motor fuel shortages that occurred during Hurricane Sandy was approved by an Assembly panel on Monday.

The first bill (A-3911), sponsored by Eustace and Wagner, would temporarily waive the requirement that fuel merchants obtain a distributor’s license to import or deliver motor fuel from another state into New Jersey when the Governor declares a state of energy emergency, as is the requirement under current law.

“Beyond just powering our cars, we rely on fuel to help deliver critical services, particularly in the event of power outages when generators are needed to keep places such as hospitals and nursing homes running properly,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “From a public safety standpoint, we need to do everything in our power to ensure that these vital services aren’t compromised in the future.”

The sponsors noted that due to fuel shortages following Hurricane Sandy, this licensing provision was temporarily waived by the Governor to allow merchants to purchase fuel from across State lines and boost supplies for New Jersey motorists. Under this bill, the distributor’s license requirement would be automatically suspended when a state of energy emergency is declared, allowing merchants to import fuel from out-of-State as soon as possible following the declaration.

“Anyone who had to endure the nightmare of trying to find scarce fuel after Sandy hit, can tell you that something needs to be done in the event of future emergencies,” said Wagner (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Our fuel supply impacts both public safety and our ability to recover as quickly as possible so ensuring access to it is crucial in any emergency.”

The bill suspends the distributor’s license requirement to import or deliver motor fuel from another state into this State for a period of 10 days following the declaration of a state of energy emergency or such period as determined by the Governor by executive order. Any person who is not a licensed distributor that imports or delivers fuel from another state pursuant to the bill’s provisions must document any out-of-State fuel purchases and pay any State taxes required pursuant to applicable law.

Under current law the Governor is authorized to proclaim by Executive Order a state of energy emergency upon a finding that there exists an energy supply shortage of a dimension which endangers the public health, safety or welfare.

The second bill (A-3912), sponsored by Eustace, Wagner and Johnson, would allow retail motor fuel dealers who have exhausted the supply of their lowest grade motor fuel during a state of energy emergency to sell any remaining supply of higher octane motor fuel at the same price per gallon or liter as the price the dealer charged for a gallon or liter of the lowest grade motor fuel.

“Sandy was a sobering lesson on the things we often take for granted,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “Our ability to access critical fuel supplies was one weakness that the storm exposed. Now we need to learn from that and address it moving forward.”

The measures were approved by the Assembly Homeland Security Committee and now await consideration by the full Senate.