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Gas stations aren't ready for storms, state says

Published June 2, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - More than half of the gas stations that must comply with a new Florida law requiring they be able to operate on generator power after a hurricane are not in compliance, a state report found.

Of the 1, 077 stations covered by the new requirement, 55 percent are believed to be in violation, according to the Department of Environmental Protection report released Thursday.

State Department of Agriculture inspectors plan to begin making rounds next week to check compliance and enforce the law.

"If they haven't (complied), we're going to issue a notice of violation and give them about 10 days - no more than two weeks - to finish up work, " said department spokesman Terry McElroy.

Many gas station owners say they need more time to comply with the law, and some have complained that it is too expensive and unfairly targets only certain businesses. The electrical upgrades needed to make a station generator-capable can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

The law went into effect Friday - the first day of hurricane season - and requires that certain gas stations have the ability to use generator power quickly after a storm, although many won't be required to actually have a generator on site.

Those outlets within a half mile of certain major evacuation routes must be pre-wired with a transfer switch and capable of operating fuel pumps, dispensing equipment and credit card payment equipment on generator power.

Companies that own 10 or more retail gas stations in a single county must have one generator for every 10 stations.

Certain other companies that own multiple gas stations in the same region are also required to be able to operate on generators.

Some gas station owners have complained because the state didn't release the final list of affected stations until shortly before the Friday deadline for compliance.

Jim Smith, president of the Florida Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, said the new law was unfair to require small businesses to foot the bill.

"We understand it's a financial burden, " Smith acknowledged, "and I also understand that I'm going to have some members that are going to be unable to afford it."

[Last modified June 2, 2007, 01:49:07]

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