GAO Says Region Has Too Little Fuel For Emergencies


A new review of the federal government's heating oil and gas reserves for the Northeast shows they hold only enough for two days' worth of consumption. The U.S General Accountability Office said in a report on Wednesday that the region's reserves, which total 2 million barrels, were established to reduce the impact of severe supply disruptions. 

"We found the current reserves are not well suited to this task," the GAO said. "They have only been used once to date, after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and hold less than 2 days' worth of consumption in the Northeast." To put the 2 million barrels in context, the GAO noted that the U.S. Department of Energy maintains a reserve of 565 million barrels of crude oil, enough for more than 30 days of national crude oil consumption.

The accountability office also raised questions about the ability to tap reserves quickly and concluded that the energy department has not fully considered future risks to regional petroleum product supplies, including risks posed by storms, noting that such supplies are commingled in tanks with commercial supplies. 

"State officials we interviewed also highlighted power outages as an impediment to accessing existing fuel supplies during some emergencies," according to the GAO report. "For example, Hurricane Sandy-related power outages shut down many gas stations. After this experience, New York State passed a law requiring some gas stations to install a transfer switch so that a back-up generator can be used in the event of an emergency." - Michael P. Norton/SHNS

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