DOE to establish gasoline stockpiles in Northeast

The Department of Energy (DOE) will work this year to establish 500,000-barrel gasoline reserves in the New York City and Boston areas to prevent the kind of fuel shortage the Northeast saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The stockpiles will be in leased commercial storage tanks and will be ready by the start of this year’s hurricane season in late fall, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told reporters Friday. They will be considered part of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a massive stockpile of unrefined oil the DOE keeps for emergencies.

“This is part of a broader commitment to a more secure and resilient energy infrastructure,” Moniz said, adding that the DOE is “responding to concerns in the Northeast from hurricane winds, tidal surges, severe wind, snow and icing conditions, as have been experienced in that region.”

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Sandy disabled much of metropolitan New York and New Jersey’s fueling infrastructure, including port terminals, refineries and even fueling stations. It was difficult for individuals and businesses to obtain fuel for vehicles and generators.

The DOE will maintain the gasoline reserve for at least five hurricane seasons. Officials will release gasoline to fueling stations if the department determines that an emergency necessitates it. It will be available to the entire Northeast.

“We think we can help mitigate the impacts of unexpected supply interruptions,” Moniz said.

Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) joined Moniz in a conference call with reporters to discuss the new reserve.

“One of the most critical lessons of Sandy is that we cannot just build back what we had before,” Schumer said. “Repairing the old is not good enough. We’ve got to learn lessons and prepare for the future.”

Sandy caused at least $68 billion in damage, but the fuel problems exacerbated issues in the aftermath.

“This was adding salt into the wound. It compounded the problems,” Schumer said.

He called the reserve a “critical resiliency effort” for preparing for future storms.

Markey said the DOE recognizes the climate change will make future storms even worse.

“It’s anticipating that the storms are only going to get more severe, and we’re going to have to put things in place to help to avert the worst consequences,” he said.

While this will be the DOE’s only gasoline reserve, it has also established a home heating oil reserve in the Northeast.

The gasoline reserve will likely cost about $200 million, but that will depend on the costs of leasing facilities and buying fuel, Moniz said.