New York's tentative state budget provides funding for a stockpile of emergency generators so gas stations can keep pumping and avoid the shortages and long lines that plagued many downstate areas in the days after Hurricane Sandy.
The spending plan still being voted into law in Albany would create an inventory of generators under contract. A state agency could then lease generators to gas stations in a disaster.
Gas stations in New York City, on Long Island and in Westchester and Rockland counties could draw from the state-contracted generators or use their own. Further study could expand the program statewide, according to the bill agreed to by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders.
"This is a critically important step to help ensure New York's fuel supply remains flowing and does not compound an emergency," said Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi.
There is a priority in the bill to keep gas stations running that are located on major highways and streets and near exits. The stations would be required to wire their pumps to accept the generators, with deadlines in coming months to get the work done.
After Sandy hit the Northeast last fall, New Jersey, then New York, had to begin even-odd rationing because the storm interrupted gasoline shipments for days.
Gas stations are now required to have backup power, but the state stockpile will provide a cheaper way to do it.
In the days following Sandy's landfall last fall, tankers were blocked from ports and highways and gas stations were quickly drained of their scant few days' supply. Sections of the city and Long Island without power were left with much-needed gas in underground pumps, but no way to get it into vehicles. The unexpected gas shortage hindered recovery efforts and prompted Cuomo to identify gas supply as a major danger point for New York City in the event of another natural disaster or terrorist attack.
In New Jersey, bills also have been introduced to require gas stations to run generators within 24 hours of a widespread power outage during a state of emergency. The bills would exempt damaged stations.