(ELIZABETH) – An Assembly panel on Wednesday advanced legislation Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Joseph Cryan and Ralph Caputo sponsored to create a pilot program to help motor fuel dealers install equipment needed to use generators during power outages. The bill was among numerous emergency preparedness measures reviewed and voted on by the panel in a special off-site hearing.
The bill (A-1338) stems from the long gas lines seen throughout New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy, some of which were caused by gas stations that lacked power to pump gas.
“We’ve heard from many gas station owners that they simply don’t have the appropriate equipment and wiring to install generators for use during power outages, so rather than force changes upon them, let’s help them take the steps needed to better serve New Jersey consumers,” said Quijano (D-Union), who is Chair of the committee. “Let’s see how these no-interest loans work and whether this will better serve motorists – and our economy. We don’t want a repeat of the post-Sandy lines and confusion.”
“The devastation caused by Sandy drew attention to the importance of emergency response preparedness and its role in effectively evacuating citizens during a natural disaster,” said Cryan (D-Union). “Maintaining electrical power at gas stations along evacuation routes is very essential for the safe and orderly evacuation of residents before or after severe weather, so let’s try this program. If it works, we can extend it statewide.”
“This is a common sense bill,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “We need to do something to help vital facilities such as gas stations provide service during power outages. This is an approach that could work.”
Previously, the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee, chaired by Quijano, heard testimony from fuel retailers on how best to provide power during emergencies. The bill requires the Office of Emergency Management to establish a two-year Motor Fuel Retail Dealer Generator Pilot Program.
Under the pilot program, the Office of Emergency Management is required to provide zero-interest loans to retail dealers of motor fuel that are located on or within one-half mile of an evacuation route approved by the office.
The bill establishes that these loans would be made available to assist retail dealers in assuming the cost of a qualified installation project. The bill defines “qualified installation project” as the installation of appropriate wiring, including a transfer switch, capable of providing electrical power to enable the retail dealer’s fuel pumps, dispensing equipment, life-safety systems and payment acceptance equipment when connected to an alternative power generator.
The loans issued under the pilot program are to bear zero interest and have a term that does not exceed 10 years. The bill limits the maximum amount for any single loan to $10,000.
At the conclusion of the “Motor Fuel Retail Dealer Generator Installation Pilot Program,” the Director of the Office of Emergency Management is required to submit a written report to the Governor and the Legislature.
The report is to include information on the compliance with the program, the number of retail dealers that are participating in the program, the average cost of each individual project, and a recommendation on the feasibility of implementing the initiative on a statewide basis.
The Assembly committee approved the measure during a special meeting held on Wednesday at Elizabeth City Hall in honor of the 350th Anniversary of the city.