When Hurricane Irma struck Florida in 2017 she threatened much of the state and spurred a panic that depleted the state’s fuel supply leaving many Floridians unable to evacuate and unable to power their electric generators.
Gasoline shortages and long lines were common at gas pumps from South Florida to Tallahassee.
A state senator from Broward County is now pushing legislation aimed at making Florida better prepared when it comes to future threats from hurricanes. Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, wants the state to draw up plans to create a strategic fuel reserve to help deal with the demand for fuel during hurricanes and other disasters.
“Let’s study the issue and see if there is a way that we can make sure that we’ve got a reserve supply of fuel,” Sen. Farmer told members of the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee Wednesday afternoon.
Farmer’s legislation would create the Florida Strategic Fuel Reserve Task Force within the Division of Emergency Management to develop a recommended strategic fuel reserve plan. The task force would be made up of nine members with the Governor, Senate President and House Speaker appointing three members each.
But some in the petroleum industry question the need for a statutorily created task force to explore the need for a strategic fuel reserve when continued dialogue between the affected parties might be all that’s needed.
“We’re more than willing to discuss the entirety of the supply chain with anybody and everybody,” said David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council.
Mica points to a study already being conducted by the National Academy of Sciences on fuel reserves with Florida being a key focus, noting two former Florida emergency management directors — Craig Fugate and Brian Koontz — are taking part in the NAS study.
Mica says a state task force could easily be sidetracked.
“It could be politicized. It could be driven into a lot of different directions very easily,” Mica said, adding that the makeup of a task force would be critical in deciding the focus of the group.
“We’re not trying to get the state into the fuel business. We’re not looking for price control,” Farmer said in defense of his bill. “We’re just making sure we’ve got gas and fuel that our emergency management people, hospital and nursing home folks need in the wake of a storm.”
Farmer’s bill was unanimously passed by the committee.