Christie rations gas as Cuomo deploys trucks to ease lines

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TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie ordered rationing of gasoline sales in 12 New Jersey counties while Gov. Andrew Cuomo deployed temporary fuel trucks around New York to help reduce miles-long lines at filling stations.

President Barack Obama also took steps Friday to increase fuel supplies to the region, including waiving a law that ordinarily permits only U.S.-flag tankers to move refined products between U.S. ports.

“Fuel is on its way,” Cuomo, a 54-year-old Democrat, said at a Manhattan press conference Saturday. “You don’t have to panic. We don’t need anxiety. We don’t need the lines.”

Tempers in New Jersey and New York have flared over days of power outages and difficulties buying gasoline for vehicles and portable electric generators. Utilities are under pressure from state officials and residents to restore service faster. More than 1 million customers in New Jersey, more than a third of homes and businesses, remain without power five days after Hurricane Sandy barreled the region.

The power outages have shut gasoline depots across New Jersey. Only 25 percent of filling stations are operating north of Interstate 195, which runs from Mercer to Monmouth counties through the center of the state, Christie said Friday.

Christie late Friday ordered rationing in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Morris, Monmouth, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties. Vehicles with license plates ending in odd numbers can be fueled on odd- numbered days, while those ending in even numbers can get gas on even-numbered days, starting at noon Saturday.

The rations extends until Christie lifts his declaration of a state of emergency. The governor, a first-term Republican, pledged to “vigorously” enforce the order.

“This system will ease the strain on those gas stations still operating, while we work to bring more online for the public to access fuel,” Christie, 50, said in a statement.

Obama, who toured the New Jersey storm damage with Christie earlier this week, Friday partially waived the Jones Act, which requires ships running between American ports to use U.S.- flagged vessels, to boost deliveries from Gulf Coast refineries. Allowing any ship to carry fuel between American ports will temporarily help relieve a shortage of qualified vessels.

The president also directed the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency to purchase as much as 22 million gallons of unleaded gasoline and diesel fuel and transport it by tanker trucks throughout New York, New Jersey and other communities affected by the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said yesterday in a statement.

New Jersey and New York also can expect delivery of 2 million gallons (7.6 million liters) of ultra-low-sulfur diesel from the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve to power emergency- response equipment. The fuel, from a depot in Connecticut, will be shipped as early as today, according to a statement from the U.S. Energy Department.

The release of diesel from the heating-oil depot in Groton, Conn., will be the first since the 42 million-gallon system was set up in 2000, the Energy Department said. A second depot is in Revere, Mass., near Boston.

Christie also suspended restrictions on out-of-state fuel purchases, and said the state and Federal Emergency Management Agency will deliver generators to filling stations shut by power outages. Cuomo waived taxes and regulations to accommodate more fuel tankers and process supplies more quickly.

Cuomo sent 5,000-gallon Department of Defense fuel trucks to five locations Saturday in New York City and Long Island to help relieve shortages. There’s an additional 150,000 gallons of fuel available to restock the trucks, which will be deployed to the Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn, Freeport and Staten Island/Elizabeth armories, he said in a statement Saturday.

Vehicles can fill up directly off of the trucks and will be limited to 10 gallons each, Cuomo said.

Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, said the state’s biggest issue is the lack of power at gasoline stations, not supply. There were extra long lines in Fairfield County Friday as people from New York and New Jersey came looking for gas, Doba said. The New Haven terminal is open and “we are able to replenish stations on a fairly regular basis,” he said.

“As more stations are brought online, we’ll be able to ease some of the congestion,” Doba said in an email Saturdday. “The entire region will be better off once the New York facilities get up and running.”

In New Jersey Saturday morning, the wait for gasoline was a half hour at the Hess Express on Route 1 north in South Brunswick. Two police officers were directing cars to open pumps.

Michael Bastin, the 31-year-old owner of a bakery in Brooklyn, was filling five 5-gallon gas containers to fuel his generators. He has 14 cans in all, most borrowed.

“I’ll get maybe a day out of this,” he said as he loaded the containers into his white van, pausing to show photos of his fondant creations. “I’m going to go back to the bakery and then come right back here.”

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Klopott reported from Albany. Contributors: Matt Townsend, Margaret Collins and Christine Harvey in New York, Bradley Olson in Houston, Jim Snyder and Mark Drajem in Washington, Terrence Dopp in Trenton , Isaac Arnsdorf in London and Stacie Sherman in Trenton.

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