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UPDATED 3:50 p.m. ET: Shorter but persistent lines at gas stations in the Northeast and sporadic closures have led to a gray market for fuel on Craigslist, with prices for delivery of a five-gallon container ranging from $30-$100 Tuesday.
Craigslist was not immediately available to comment.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office announced Monday that it was looking into price gouging complaints after Superstorm Sandy. It said that the state’s General Business Law “prohibits such increases in costs of essential items like food, water, gas, generators, batteries and flashlights, and services like transportation, during natural disasters or other events that disrupt the market.”
After the storm disrupted supply chains, reports surfaced of consumers complaining about price hikes on a variety of scarce resources, from $10 for a box of matches to $7 for a loaf of bread.
Drivers also turned to social media to find where they could buy gas legitimately. Twitter account @njgas kept its growing band of 6,400 plus followers posted with crowd-supplied updates on gas station openings, wait times, and rationing rules.
More of the major fuel refineries that supply the area had recovered from Superstorm Sandy and reopened Tuesday, but 10 remained shuttered, Reuters reported, including two which contain twenty-five percent of the area's fuel capacity. A barge bearing an additional 17.6 million gallons of biofuel will be allowed to berth and deliver badly needed fuel to New Jersey, thanks to a temporary easement of regulations by the EPA.
The bigger problem seemed to be ongoing power outages. Without power, even if the gas stations have fuel, they can't run the pumps.
The Long Island Power Authority listed 200,428 of its customers remained without electricity on Tuesday morning, down from over 300,000 on Monday. In New Jersey, 582,000 remained without power, while Jersey Central Power & Light reported 257,884 outages, the AP reported. PSE&G, which had pledged to restore full power to homes by Sunday, revised that till later in the week.
In areas where power had been restored, more gas stations were able to open. This allowed cars to spread out at more pumps and decrease overall wait times. In Central New Jersey, lines had decreased Tuesday from 75-100 minutes over the weekend to waits of no longer than 5-10 minutes, driver Michael Franken of Plainsboro told NBC News.
In the Queens borough of New York, where gas line tensions over the weekend got so bad a man was arrested for allegedly pulling out a gun in order to cut the queue, some gas stations this morning had zero lines, resident Paul Eng told NBC News. Others had half the size they did before. However, a number of stations remained closed in the borough.
In other parts, high driver demand and ongoing station closures meant drivers were still experiencing long delays. In Teaneck, N.J., lines “are still long enough to cause traffic on Route 4 to come to a near standstill in various parts,” one driver, Keith Kaplan, told NBC News. “Annoying, since we are now causing the shortage.”
Experts say the backups at the pump won't completely end even by the end of the week.
“But the situation should at least be manageable," Ralph Bombardiere, head of Gasoline and Repair Shop Association of New York, told Reuters. “While more (stations) now have power restored, the increased demand they're seeing is emptying the tanks faster than normal.”
Reuters contributed to this report.