Emergency Generator Initiative Launched In WOC

Emergency Generator Initiative Launched In WOC

WEST OCEAN CITY — A new statewide initiative to provide gas stations and other fuel distributors across Maryland with funding for back-up generators in the event of a natural disaster or other extensive power outage was launched in West Ocean City yesterday.
The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA), in conjunction with other public and private sector partners on Thursday, officially launched its “Fuel Up Maryland” program at the Wine Rack at the corner of Route 50 and Golf Course Road. The program will provide $1.7 million in grant funding for private sector gas stations and fuel distributors along designated emergency evacuation routes across the state to wire their facilities and install back-up emergency generators in the event of a major storm or other extensive power outage.
The concept was the brainchild of MEA’s Paul Bollinger, Jr. and other state and private partners and was borne out of the situation that occurred in New Jersey and New York during Super Storm Sandy last October. During and after the storm, residents and visitors attempting to evacuate or pick up the pieces following its passage could not access gasoline and other fuels because the stations and distributors did not have power to fuel their facilities.
Huge lines of vehicles attempting to get gas formed and lasted for days and even weeks during the tedious process of restoring power. Maryland recognized a similar situation could occur here and began to explore proactive measures to prevent it. Gov. Martin O’Malley included $1.7 million in his capital budget this year for the “Fuel Up Maryland” program.
“We thought about how we can make our state more energy resilient,” said MEA Director Abigail Hopper at the Wine Rack in West Ocean City on Thursday. “After Sandy last fall, we saw our neighbors up north waiting in long lines for gas and other fuels they couldn’t access because there was no power at the stations and distribution centers. We met with gas station owners and distributors across Maryland and raised concerns and decided let’s not wait until a storm hits, let’s be proactive.”
As a result, over 600 gas stations within a half of a mile of designated emergency evacuation routes from West Ocean City to Western Maryland can now apply for individual grants of up to $15,000 to pre-wire their facilities for the installation of permanent or temporary generators.
The Wine Rack is one of the first to apply for and receive the grant and its parent company, Ocean Petroleum, will install generators at its facilities from one end of Maryland to the other in the near future.
“We saw the situation last fall when our colleagues in New Jersey all lost power and there were cars waiting in line for miles to fill up,” said Ocean Petroleum Chief Operating Officer Steve Ladd. “They were extremely frustrated because they had underground tanks full of gas and customers lined up for as far as the eye could see and there was nothing they could do about it.”
Ladd said the Wine Rack will have emergency generators installed within the next few weeks.
“We’re looking forward to being on full generator power within the next few weeks. We hope we never have to use it, but we will be prepared if we do,” he said.
One of the private sector partners that worked closely on the program was the Washington, Maryland, Delaware Service Station Association. “We appreciate the partnership with the state and companies like Ocean Petroleum on this,” Association Technical Advisor Jamie Brooke said. “This will help Maryland consumers get fuel in the event of a natural disaster. It’s just a great idea to use these emergency evacuation routes.”
Ocean Petroleum owner Ed Ellis agreed the program represented proactive thinking by Maryland and its partners, although he couldn’t resist a playful jab at the state.
“I think this is the first time we’ve ever gotten money back from the state after all the money we’ve put in over the years,” he said with tongue firmly planted in cheek. “In all seriousness though, this is an example of forward thinking and a great idea. …. I think there are a whole lot of gas stations over in Ocean City that ought to be included in this program. In the event of a natural disaster, you’re going to want to have them on board. I know that sounds like I’m lobbying for my competitors, but I think that’s important.”