Maybe it's a good idea for local gas stations to install generators to keep pumping during power outages — but the Bernards Township Committee decided on Tuesday that the municipality won't require local stations to acquire such generators.
"I think it would a good idea for for gas stations if they chose to do so but it's not something we would like to impose on them," said Township Mayor Carolyn Gaziano. The rest of the committee and two residents at the meeting also did not favor a requirement for backup generators.
The Township Committee had on its Tuesday agenda under correspondence a letter suggestion the township adopt an ordinance to require gas stations in the township to install natural gas generators that would be adequate to pump gas during power outages. The suggestion came in the form of a letter last week from former Bernards Township Engineer and Planner Peter Messina.
"This simple requirement would have stemmed a lot of the frustrations and anxiety about just getting to work, " Messina said in his Jan. 8 letter to the township.
Messina added in the letter he had also contacted William Dressel of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities concerning introducing a Bill to require all gas stations to have a backup generator. The letter added that Dressel had passed along the suggestion to state Sen. Anthony Bucco, (R-district 25) who among his towns represents Bernardsville.
Gaziano added that during a meeting last year by Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, local businesses talking about doing business in the state said they don't want more government regulations.
Bernards Deputy Mayor John Carpenter said that he would oppose the mandate at both the local and the state levels.
"Clearly, it would lead to higher gas prices," Carpenter said. He said the requirement also would add another level of bureaucracy in state government.
Contacted by Patch on Monday, Bucco's office sent this response:
"Senator Bucco likes the concept, but as with anything, the devil is in the details of who pays for it. Obviously, state finances are pretty tight. The gas station proprietors themselves usually lease the property from the parent oil company. The station owners can’t absorb the cost like the parent company can because those lease costs are pretty high. There isn’t much of a profit margin for the station owners themselves, so the cost of a large generator borne solely by the station owners would also likely be a problem. But, if there’s a responsible way to make it happen, Senator Bucco’s willing to take a look at it."
Letter from New Jersey Gasoline C-Store-Automotive Association
At Tuesday's meeting, Gaziano read part of a letter from Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline C-Store Automotive Association, based in Springfield.
"Even if such a mandate had been in effect, and every gas station in New Jersey had a functioning backup generator the morning after Sandy had passed, we still would have been in an almost identical gas crisis," Risalvato's letter said.
Risalvato's letter said the issue was more of a supply problem. "Many stations that did not lose electricity quickly sold out of gasoline and closed down because they could not get a resupply," he said in a part of the letter read publicly by Gaziano.
"The refineries and racks where the tankers fill up were significantly damaged by the storm throughout New Jersey," the letter said. Without that supply of gas, "it would not have mattered if the stations had power or not." He disputed a part of Messina's letter saying that there were millions of gallons of gas sitting in underground tanks that just could not be pumped.
Risalvato's letter said the cost of fully equipping a gas station with a generator could cost between $10,000 to $30,000, an amount he said is a "tremendous expense" for small businesses.
The letter added he had been working with the legislature on similar proposals.
Two residents at the Township Committee meeting said they agreed with the Township Committee's position. "If they want it, they should put it in themselves," said Todd Edelstein.