The state could soon be stepping up to help gas station owners afford back-up generators as part of a measure moving through Trenton.

People line up to fill gas canisters at a Shell gas station
People lined up after Sandy at a Shell gas station in Matawan (Michael Loccisano, Getty Images)

Anybody who waited in mile-long lines after Superstorm Sandy knows the more stations pumping gas during an emergency the better. A new bill would establish a two-year pilot program providing no-interest loans to gas stations located on or with a half-mile of an evacuation route approved by the office.

"This bill will provide a no-interest loan for ten years up to $10,000," Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, chairperson of the Assembly Homeland Security Committee and the sponsor of the measure, explains. "It doesn't cost the taxpayers anything and it's going to be to their benefit."

It doesn't cost the taxpayers a penny, explains Quijano because the loans do have to be repaid. The loans would help motor fuel dealers install equipment needed to use generators during power outages.

The bill stems from the long gas lines seen throughout New Jersey following 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," Quijano says.

"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 source of funding for the loans shall be from the 9-1-1 System and Emergency Response Trust Fund Account.

At the conclusion of the pilot program, the Office of Emergency Management would be required to submit a written report to the Governor and the Legislature, including information on the compliance with the program, the number of retail dealers participating in the program, the average cost of each individual project and the feasibility of implementing it on a statewide basis.

"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," Quijano explains. "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."

Gas Station Group Support

The New Jersey Gasoline Convenience Store and Automotive Association is opposed to forcing gas stations to buy generators, but the group's executive director likes Quijano's bill.

"Here they're providing a little incentive for those small business owners that may want to take the risk to do something to provide back-up generation in another storm," Sal Risalvato said. "I'm not sure it actually will help mitigate any problems in a future storm, but it sure is a test to see if there is more that can be done in a future situation."

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