A fuel truck parked at Tuxis Ohr’s Fuel in Meriden Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Citing concerns about the impact of the war in Ukraine, Gov. Ned Lamont urged Connecticut residents on Wednesday to prepare for possible fuel supply disruptions this winter by filling up their home heating oil tanks now.

During remarks to a gathering of the Connecticut Retail Merchants Association, Lamont said conditions in Europe made fuel supply potentially unpredictable as winter approaches and advised residents to fill up.

“I want everyone to fill up their fuel tanks right now, home heating oil, whatever it might be,” Lamont said. “Stop playing the market and hoping prices are going to go down in six months or six weeks. Fill up now just to make sure you have that adequate supply if we have a really cold January or February or March.”

The remarks come about a month after New England governors met with U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm over concerns about the reliability and price of heating oil and natural gas this winter. 

The governors also wrote to Granholm in late July and urged the Biden Administration to consider suspending the Jones Act, a shipping law that restricts which vessels may transport goods to U.S. ports, in an effort to ease the shipment of liquified natural gas to New England. 

“While our immediate focus is on this upcoming winter, the ramifications of Russia’s invasion and the realignment of natural gas supplies will have long-term global consequences and could have adverse impacts in New England,” the governors including Lamont wrote.

Asked about the supplies Wednesday, Lamont referenced The Hunger Games, a dystopian book and movie series.

“You see what’s going on in Ukraine, you see what’s going on in Europe. It could be Hunger Games when it comes to fuel supplies,” Lamont told reporters after a campaign event in Hartford. “Right now we’re in pretty good shape but you have an opportunity to fill up your fuel tank. I’m telling that to suppliers and I’m telling that to the store owners. If they’ve got a tank, fill it up.”

However, fuel suppliers say a rush to top off tanks would create just the type of supply problem the governor was seeking to avoid. Chris Herb, president of the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association, cautioned heating oil customers against heeding the governor’s advice. 

“The last thing you want to do is advise the public to top off because the system, even when there’s no stress on it, is not built to have everyone full at the same time,” Herb said Wednesday. “What ends up happening is the senior citizen next door, Mrs. Smith, who actually does need a delivery can’t get it because everyone else topped off. It’s irresponsible.”

Herb said the Ukraine war has been adding stress to the fuel supply system since the spring but he encouraged customers to work with their suppliers to enroll in a predictable automatic delivery schedule. 

“Most dealers advise their customers not to call unless they’re under a quarter tank,” Herb said. “When you have a quarter tank, you still have potentially a week or more worth of supply on site in your home. There’s no reason to panic, just make sure you’re engaged in that conversation. If you have a concern, your oil dealer will be able to advise you when the best time to get a delivery is.”

Both Herb and the governor encouraged residents who were worried about paying their heating bills to apply for energy assistance programs like Operation Fuel or Connecticut’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

“We still have resources in LIHEAP, I urge people to take advantage of that right now,” Lamont said. “It may be a relatively warm day today but I want you to be prepared a month from now.”