In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, cities on the East Coast are enduring widespread power outages, infrastructure complications, and even gasoline shortages. As a consequence, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie issued an executive order late Friday that instituted an odd-even gas rationing system in 12 northern New Jersey counties.
Under the order, motorists will be permitted to buy gasoline just every other day, depending on their license plate numbers. Drivers with plates ending in an even number will be able to purchase gas on even-number days, while those with plates ending in an odd number will be allowed to purchase gas on odd-numbered days.
Through rationing, the governor’s initiative intends to curb long wait times at gas stations while preventing a widespread fuel shortage in one of the states hardest hit by the massive storm. “I encourage all New Jerseyans to abide by this system — motorists and retail dealers alike — to ease wait times and improve access for everyone,” Attorney General Jeffery Chiesa asserted in a statement. "Those who choose to disregard this order will be prosecuted to the fullest extent permitted under the Governor's state of emergency authority.”
Vexation continues to intensify as states such as Connecticut and New York are also encountering severe fuel shortages, leading to increased driver tension and even gas station closings. Many Connecticut drivers have been bumped in line by New York City taxi drivers who have traveled to their state desperate to fill their fuel tanks.
Officials say the gas shortages are not due to lack of supply, but instead are caused by power outages, which have shuttered fuel depots across New Jersey. Only 30 percent of gas stations are open north of Interstate I-95, which cuts through the middle of the state, while 95 percent of those stations south of the interstate are operating, Christie told reporters Saturday.
Desperation has become so grave that a Queens resident was arrested last week for pulling a gun on another driver as they waited in line for gas. Law enforcement said the man attempted to cut in the line and threatened the life of a man who complained. Panic over long gas lines and shortages has prompted governments in multiple states to consider gas rationing systems. Governor Christie promised to dispatch police offers to fuel stations to “vigorously” enforce the executive order, which should purportedly last only “a few days.”
“There was a mob scene at a 7-Eleven station on 65th Street and Third Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, when a delivery of a few thousand gallons arrived yesterday afternoon,” the New York Post reported Saturday. “A line of drivers stretched 20 blocks and about 100 people lined up with canisters — only to be told by the station it was limiting purchases to $20 per customer.”
Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sent a fleet of 5,000-gallon U.S. Defense Department fuel trucks to five locations on Saturday in Long Island and New York City. Those fueling stations are not available to the public so that emergency officers and first responder personnel may use them, affirmed Eric Durr, a spokesman for the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs.
President Obama, who canvassed the New Jersey damage with Gov. Christie last week, partially waived the Jones Act, which mandates that ships sailing between U.S. ports use U.S.-flagged vessels, to increase fuel deliveries from the Gulf Coast. Furthermore, the Environmental Protection Agency temporarily suspended clean fuel requirements in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York City to authorize the use of heating oil in non-road vehicles, highway vehicles, and equipment for emergency response operations.
While political leaders and emergency response officials assure that severe power outages, which have prompted the unpopular gas rationing system in New Jersey, will likely be contained in the coming days, East Coast residents continue to endure the devastating aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.