Some New Jersey gas station owners were restricting sales to residents of their home communities right after Superstorm Sandy.

Sandy Gas Lines
Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

There are currently no consumer safeguards on the books to prevent these types of selective sales or self-imposed rationing rules, but a new bill would change that.

A measure co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Jim Holzapfel would bar motor fuel retailers from refusing to sell to customers on the basis of where they live or to require any proof of residency, unless an official statewide state of emergency determines these restrictions are needed to alleviate an existing or impending fuel shortage.

"Retailers can't discriminate with a residency requirement during normal conditions, they certainly shouldn't be imposing their own rationing system during an emergency," says Weinberg. "The people of New Jersey came together and helped each other after Sandy hit our communities. We shouldn't allow that spirit of cooperation and unity to be compromised by denying motorists needed fuel based on where they live."

Because of storm damage to gas stations, many towns were plagued with persistent gas shortages, making it very tough for drivers to get their vehicles fueled. The difficulties were compounded for those who were turned away because of where they live.

"When individual gas station owners implement their own rationing systems in an emergency, they can create confusion leading to even longer lines and greater frustration for consumers," explains Holzapfel. "As we experienced in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the decision to ration gasoline is best left to the Governor who can enact uniform rules for all gas stations which can be clearly explained to the public."

The bipartisan bill has passed the full State Senate with a vote of 39 to 0. As of now, there is no Assembly version of the legislation.

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