DHS secretary issues waiver so ships can take fuel to disaster areas

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, right, speaks at a news conference with Connecticut lawmakers after touring storm-damaged areas. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, right, speaks at a news conference with Connecticut lawmakers after touring storm-damaged areas. Dave Collins/AP

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Friday issued a blanket, temporary waiver of the 1920 Jones Act to allow foreign-flag ships to deliver fuel resources to energy-starved areas of New York and New Jersey still reeling from Superstorm Sandy.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross, meanwhile, have stepped up cooperative efforts to restore power and deliver food, water and housing assistance -- with help from the Energy and Defense departments and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Thousands in the Mid-Atlantic region are currently unable to purchase gasoline either because service stations have run out of product or they lack electrical power for the gas pumps. Waiver of the Jones Act will allow additional oil tankers coming from the Gulf of Mexico to enter Northeastern ports to provide oil and refined fuel until Nov. 13.

“The administration's highest priority is ensuring the health and safety of those impacted by Hurricane Sandy, and this waiver will remove a potential obstacle to bringing additional fuel to the storm damaged region,” Napolitano said.

Also accelerating the rescue effort, said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in a Friday morning conference call with reporters, is work by Energy and Defense Logistics Agency employees to reopen local pipelines and increase refinery capacities. EPA contributed by temporarily waiving Clean Air Act requirements -- which vary by jurisdiction -- to give refineries greater flexibility to surge production of gasoline and diesel fuel.

FEMA’s other focus, according to Fugate, is getting storm victims to register with the agency through a toll-free telephone number or the website. With many in the area lacking power or cellphone service, teams of federal, state and local outreach personnel are visiting neighborhoods where much property was destroyed. “It’s easy for people who can see the news, who have working cable or a cellphone to call,” he said. “But for others, the information is only as far as you can walk and as far as you can see.”

As of 11 a.m. Friday, FEMA had registered 85,072 people from the areas declared as disaster zones and had disbursed $18,815,347 for rental assistance, some by direct deposit, others by check, Fugate said. Benefits may go on for as long as 18 months, with a cap of slightly more than $30,000, after which loans might be available from the Small Business Administration and the Housing and Urban Development Department.

Once communities are stabilized, FEMA and state and local authorities will assess other damage and destroyed federal facilities, he said. The widespread lack of flood insurance coverage -- for both residential structures and contents of the homes -- was a key reason President Obama opted for an early disaster declaration, according to Fugate.

The urgent needs for daily survival are being met by the Red Cross, said the nonprofit’s Senior Vice President of Disaster Services Charley Shimanski on the same conference call. Planning before the storm hit has allowed his volunteers to erect 40 shelters in New York City and Long Island and in eight other states that have housed 7,000, and to set up fixed and mobile feeding sites that have served more than 500,000 ready-to-eat meals. They have aided more than 5,000 people with medical and mental health issues. More than 80 emergency response vehicles and 4,000 disaster workers have come in from across the United States, with more en route, he said.

“It’s a very big job and we’ll be at it for week,” Shimanski said. “I know it’s a frustrating time for those affected, but we want them to know we’re doing everything possible.”

His team had seen TV news reports that Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro was angry that aid to his constituents appeared to be coming later than that for more-affluent areas. “We’ve been in direct touch with him to say we were facing the same circumstances as everyone else in terms of road access,” Shimanski said. But now that feeding operations are on the island, the borough leader has expressed his gratitude.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.