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JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Although many gas station in the northeast have returned to business as usual in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, drivers in New York City, Long Island and elsewhere still struggle to find locations where they can fill their tanks.
This has given rise to a gasoline black market on Craigslist. Some of the ads, many of which were reported and flagged for removal, advertised gas delivery at prices ranging from $11 to $20 per gallon, according to the Toronto Star. Others invited buyers to come and fill their own gas cans at various prices, such as $10 per gallon or $100 for a five-gallon can, reported NYMag.com.
This practice is illegal, New York City council member David Greenfield told Marketplace.org. "It's not legal to sell gas on the street or on craigslist or online, or out of the trunk of your car," Greenfield said. "We don't even know what kind of gas it is that you're purporting to be selling!"
To cope with the shortage, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Long Island officials announced a gas rationing system set to begin today in the city and the Long Island counties of Nassau and Suffolk starting today. As in New Jersey's gas rationing system, New York drivers will be able to fill up on odd-numbered dates if their license plate ends in an odd number, and on even-numbered dates if their plate ends in an even number.
Vehicles with license plates that end in a letter or other character can fuel up on odd-numbered dates. All commercial vehicles, emergency vehicles, buses and paratransit vehicles, Medical Doctor (MD) plates and vehicles licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission are exempt, reported Gothamist.com.
"It's not any great imposition once you get used to it," Bloomberg stated during an afternoon press conference where he announced the rationing system. "We have to do something, and this is something that is practical and enforceable and understandable. Doing something is a lot better than doing nothing."
Approximately 25 percent of the city's gas stations are open, Bloomberg said during another briefing. The rationing system is expected to last until at least sometime next week.
State officials in New York and New Jersey will also be looking into possible cases of price gouging in the wake of Sandy and this week's Nor'easter. Consumers have called in hundreds of complaints of gouging, the the New York Attornerney General Eric Schneiderman's office reported on Monday, Nov. 5, prompting an investigation. A spokesman for the office did not say whether the black market gasoline ads were part of the investigation, but an anonymous official claimed that Craigslist has been subpoenaed to provide the identities of advertisers who posted approximately 100 ads, including those offering fuel and gas cans, reported the Associated Press.
New York state law prohibits selling goods or services for an "unconscionably excessive price" during an emergency.
Meanwhile, New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa announced the filing of lawsuits against eight businesses accused of price gouging during the post-Sandy state of emergency, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. The businesses include seven gas stations and a Howard Johnson Express hotel.
"We have received no indication that these defendants faced costs that would have made these excessive price increases necessary or justifiable," Chiesa said during today's announcement. "We have hundreds of complaints still to investigate. Anyone seeking to prey upon the desperation of consumers during this state of emergency will find that the penalties far outweigh any ill-gotten profits."
New Jersey's Division of Consumer Affairs received nearly 1,200 complaints about gas stations, hardware stores, convenience stores and hotels, leading Chiesa to issue approximately 100 subpoenas to the businesses accused of gouging, he said. Consumers who suspect price gouging can call the Division of Consumer Affairs at (800) 242-5846, toll free within the state, or (973) 504-6200, or by visiting its website.