Hurricane Backup Power at Gas Stations

With just a couple of days left in the annual legislative session, Florida lawmakers are trying to finalize a plan to make sure gas stations have backup power when the next hurricane hits.

The smaller stations are furious about another costly state mandate, but lawmakers are determined to head off another gas crunch.

Every new or renovated gas station would have to re-wire so they could use generator power under a plan generating controversy at the Capitol. Same for gas stations within a half-mile of evacuation routes.

If you own 10 or more stations, you’d also have to have a professional-grade portable generator, and be willing to share it if another part of the state gets hit with a hurricane.

Jim Smith with the Florida Petroleum Marketers Association says the plan could drive some mom and pop stations out of business.

“It’s the idea of a mandate of having generators available. It’s a very big expense for my small marketers.”

But lawmakers say they can’t go back to their districts without making sure there’s no repeat of last summer’s gas line nightmare, and if that means a mandate, so be it.

The debate has pitted some local communities with tougher ordinances against lawmakers who don’t think the state should be forcing businesses’ hands. But Senator Steve Geller says this compromise to share generators is a workable solution.

“In a county that has 3,000 gas stations, if you’ve got a thousand of them or 1,500 open, you’re not going to have these lines.

At least 20 percent of Florida’s gas stations already have backup power. The question now is whether the Legislature will force more of them to get on board.

The bill requiring gas stations to be able to run by generator power is up for final passage this week the Senate. It already passed the House. The legislative session ends Friday.