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Northeast Gas Reserve Responds To Need Highlighted By Sandy Aftermath

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The U.S. Department of Energy has announced a Northeast gasoline reserve to prevent a fuel shortage in the aftermath of a storm or natural disaster.

DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz says hurricane Sandy, which battered the Northeast region in 2012, proved that steps need to be taken to prevent further suffering after a disaster hits.

“The President’s climate action plan called on the Department of Energy to better prepare for the affects of climate change,” Moniz said. “We are already seeing those affects. So the issue of addressing fuel resilience is certainly one of the important parts of that preparation for extreme weather.”

Two reserves will be established in leased commercial spaces near the New York City harbor and Boston, each storing half a million gallons of gasoline. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, says the inability to get fuel to parts of New York City and Long Island compounded the storm’s destruction.

“Then on top of the damage we were in desperate search of gasoline to run emergency generators and to drive to work,” Schumer said. “People couldn’t get anywhere. Without gasoline they couldn’t get the bare necessities of life. They couldn’t get their generators working so they couldn’t get heat when heat was out. There was no mass transit. All the buses and subways and everything else was gone. So this was adding salt into the wound.”

U.S. Senator Edward Markey, a fellow Democrat from Massachusetts, says the reserves will also prevent price increases following a disruption of service.

“Since 2011, our overall refining capacity on the East Coast has declined by more than 300,000 barrels per day,” Markey said. “A report from the Department of Energy in 2011 concluded that refinery closures occurring in the Northeast could result in spot shortages with price spikes for different fuels that increase price volatility,” Markey said.  The Northeast gas reserves will help protect consumers across the region from volatility and price spikes.”

The Department of Energy estimates the project will cost the agency $200 million and expects to have the reserves ready this summer for peak hurricane season during the late summer and early fall. Energy Secretary Moniz says the reserves will remain for the next five years while his agency reviews the nation’s overall energy resiliency.

“The focus of that process this year is on energy infrastructure,” Moniz said. “The transmission, storage and distribution of energy both electricity and fuels. The activity is going to include regionally-based, across the county, fuel resiliency studies to analyze the specific challenges faced in different parts of the country that are vulnerable to different kinds of weather-related natural disasters that might affect energy supply infrastructure.”

Some gas stations were without fuel deliveries for 30 days after Superstorm Sandy damaged two refineries and more than 40 terminals in the New York Harbor area. Senator Schumer says fuel supply is only part of the equation.

“You need a gas station with power and you need gasoline,” Schumer said. “This will provide the gasoline. Out of Sandy funds we are providing money to gas stations so they can both have backup generators and those generators can be protected so that they don’t flood so easily. Many of them are right at ground level and they don’t have barriers that prevent them from being water-logged when the floods come.”

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