Jones Act waivers issued to aid in gas flow

spencer340x255NOVEMBER 2, 2012—In a move to ease the flow of gasoline to the U.S. Northeast in the wake of the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has issued a blanket waiver to the Jones Act to allow foreign flag oil tankers coming from the U.S. Gulf of Mexico to enter ports in the Northeast.

One of the problems confronting drivers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are long lines at gas stations—upwards of three hours or more when they can find one open. Gas stations either don’t have any fuel or electricity or both.

As we reported earlier, the Port of New York and New Jersey was just reopened today on a limited basis to allow tank barges and tankers carrying petroleum to enter the port. The Port of NY/NJ had been closed since October 27 in preparation of Hurricane Sandy.

Jones Act advocacy group the American Maritime Partnership (AMP) said it would not oppose the waivers granted by Napolitano, even though it is not aware of any instances were a U.S.-flag tank barge or tanker was not available to meet the needs of demand . In a statement, AMP said, "Nothing is more important right now than the safety and security of our fellow Americans. The American maritime industry is working around the clock responding to the emergency and ensuring the delivery of petroleum and other needed products to regions affected by Hurricane Sandy.”

Added AMP, “Existing law allows for the granting of Jones Act waivers in certain circumstances where American vessels are not available. In such a circumstance, the American maritime industry will not stand in the way of needed Jones Act waivers. That has been our position in previous similar national emergencies, and it is our position today."

On its blog, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which unlike Hurricane Katrina has earned accolades thus far for its response, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has exercised its authority under the Clean Air Act to temporarily waive certain federal gasoline requirements for gas sold and distributed in more than a dozen states.  This waiver will help ensure an adequate supply of fuels in the impacted states.

FEMA also said it was working with major utilities and the private sector to restore power to gas stations that do have fuel.

Part of the Obama Administration’s response has been to airlift about 60 utility trucks from California to aid in restoring electricity in the Northeast. FEMA reported that the federal government also has provided hundreds of generators to help critical infrastructure sites and fuel stations operate until full power is restored.  Fuel points of distribution locations also are being identified and will be established in hard hit areas to accelerate fuel distribution.

The rest of New York Harbor is also slowly coming back to life. The Hudson River is open to all vessel traffic, reports the Coast Guard, and the Staten Island Ferry—a vital link for commuters between St. George in Staten Island and The Battery in Manhattan,— has begun service again. Manhattan and Bayonne, NJ, cruise ship terminals are now open, but the Brooklyn cruise ship terminal remains closed.

The Coast Guard says that tugs and barges can transit the Arthur Kill waterway from the south, but there is a “no wake” zone restriction in place.

In addition, the U.S. Coast Guard response teams continue to patrol New York Harbor to assess damage to marine structures in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The Coast Guard Cutter Spencer, homeported in Boston, MA, shown at top in phto by USCG's Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Tippets, was deployed to New York Harbor to assist in the search and rescue response and acted as a communications hub for post Hurricane Sandy response efforts. Coast Guard personnel from Sector New York, Station New York, Maritime Safety and Security Team New York and the Atlantic Strike Team also deployed to the area in support of the response and recovery operations. Crews surveyed the waterway, searched for pollution sources, sunken vessels, and potential actionable discharge of oil or release of hazardous materials.

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