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Manasquan Lukoil Among Gas Stations Accused of Substituting Aviation Fuel For Unleaded

The aviation fuel contains toxic lead, and was sold at the station in Manasquan, authorities said.

The Manasquan Lukoil is one of six gas stations in New Jersey accused of selling aviation fuel in place of unleaded gas, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA) announced on Tuesday, May 28.

The six gas stations named in a lawsuit filed by Chiesa and the DCA allegedly substituted 65,000 gallons of 100 octane aviation gasoline, or avgas, from a fuel distributor, between Dec. 6 and 7, 2012. According to the DCA, the aviation fuel was advertised as unleaded regular, plus, or premium motor fuel, and sold to unsuspecting customers between Dec. 6 and 8, 2012.

That deceit is a violation of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act, Motor Fuels Act, Weights and Measures Act, Motor Fuels Regulations, and Advertising Regulations, as well as the Federal Clean Air Act.

Avgas is used to power piston-engined aircraft, and contains a toxic lead known as tetraethyl lead. This lead can damage the catalytic converters and oxygen sensors of a car.

“We allege that these gas stations clearly knew, or should have known, they were selling aviation fuel that contains toxic lead, while advertising it as unleaded gasoline for motorists,” Chiesa said. “We will pursue restitution for any consumer, if it is demonstrated that this aviation fuel damaged their vehicles.  Just as importantly, we are holding these gas stations and the distributors responsible for their alleged, unlawful deception and potential harm to the public.”

The following gas stations, located in Mercer, Monmouth, Somerset and Union counties, were named in the lawsuit: Pasmel Property, Inc., of Freehold, and six Pasmel-owned gas stations: Daninka, in North Plainfield; Express Fuel, in Trenton; Keyport Delta; Manasquan Lukoil; Lawrenceville Lukoil; and Scotch Plains Lukoil.

Zephyr Oil, a fuel distributor based out of Brooklyn, and Lee Transport, a fuel transporter based out of Pittsgrove, were also named in the lawsuit. They are accused of violating the Consumer Fraud Act by selling and/or distributing leaded aviation fuel that they knew, or should have known, would be advertised and sold to consumers as unleaded motor fuel.

Zephyr Oil is accused of purchasing about 73,000 gallons of avgas on Dec. 4, 2012, from a California-based company not named in the lawsuit. Zephyr Oil then sold that fuel to Pasmel at a significantly discounted price. Lee Transport was contracted to deliver the fuel from a terminal in Bayonne, where it was being stored, to the gas stations.

The state alleges that all three entities knew or should have known the fuel being transported was avgas, as the bills were clearly labelled “AVGAS – Aviation," and the loading forms signed by Lee Transport labelled the fuel "AVGAS." The weight tickets from the Bayonne terminal also labelled the fuel "AVGAS."

An employee at the terminal learned from a Lee Transport driver on the afternoon of Dec. 7 that the aviation fuel was being transported to gas stations, according to the DCA. At that point, the terminal stopped deliveries of the fuel, leaving 8,000 gallons of the fuel undelivered to gas stations.

On Tuesday afternoon, Pasmel Attorney Glen Vida denies the company had knowledge that the fuel being delivered was aviation fuel. On Dec. 20, 2012, Pasmel filed a lawsuit against Zephyr Oil.

"The invoice said 'premium gasoline,'" Vida said.

Vida claims that as soon as Pasmel knew what it was distributing, it closed down the stations, emptied the tanks, disposed of the aviation fuel and cleansed everything. Stations were shut down for several weeks, and in some cases, a month.

"Pasmel lost an awful lot of money," Vida said. "It approaches six figures."

Zephyr has responded to the suit, claiming Pasmel knew it was receiving aviation fuel. Vida will be looking to consolidate that suit with the one filed by the state on Tuesday.

“Any consumers who believe they purchased fuel from these six gas stations between December 6 and December 8 is urged to call the Division of Consumer Affairs at 800-242-5846, especially if you believe your vehicle may have been damaged as a result,” DCA Director Eric T. Kanefsky said.

Violations of the Consumer Fraud Act may result in civil penalties of up to $10,000 for a first violation and up to $20,000 for subsequent violations.  Violations of the Motor Fuels Act may result in civil penalties of up to $1,500 for a first violation and up to $3,000 for subsequent violations. 

A first violation of the Motor Fuels Act may result in a suspension of up to 30 days of the retail dealer’s license to sell motor fuels, and a subsequent offense can lead to a revocation of the license. 

Violations of the Weights and Measures Act may result in civil penalties of up to $1,000 for the first violation, and up to $5,000 for subsequent violations.

Enforcement Supervisor John McGuire, of the New Jersey Office of Weights and Measures within the Division of Consumer Affairs, conducted the investigation.  Deputy Attorneys General Glenn T. Graham and Jeffrey Koziar, of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law, are representing the State in the action.

Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.

Christian von Delius May 30, 2013 at 07:09 PM
Wish I lived near there.. I would have bought a tanker truck and fill'd 'er up... If they were selling AVgas at MOgas prices, I would have set up Bob's discount airplane fuel at a small airport '-) I'd be the one in the trenchcoat..."Psst, hey buddy, need some 100LL for your plane?" -Christian
Keith Hudson May 30, 2013 at 07:09 PM
This is hard to believe, as aviation gasoline (avgas) costs twice the expense of unleaded premium gas per gallon. I cannot imagine anyone purchasing 65,000 gallons of avgas at twice the price and then selling it at unleaded gasoline prices, under any circumstances! Premium unleaded gas here in Little Rock is selling now at $3.60 per gallon. Avgas is selling at Little Rock Clinton National Airport for $7.10 a gallon. What businessperson would purchase like that, it makes no sense at all. They would be broke in short order. I think some facts are wrong or being misquoted. Finally, avgas is not really any more toxic than regular gasoline as far as people working with it. It contains significantly less lead than the old automobile gasoline mixes used up until the mid 1970s. LL100 in fact means "low-lead 100 octane" and is formulated with very little lead content.
Bruce A. Frank May 30, 2013 at 07:12 PM
Certainly it was truth in advertizing to call it "premium" gas. I have 60 year old antique vehicle. I would love to have been able to get a couple of tank fulls of that fuel. I just love the over reactive spin of leaded gas being "highly toxic(!)," in this miniscule quantity of fuel. All those decades of exposure to fuel containing MTBE did more damage to the environment and individuals that the previous century of using leaded fuels...or the few thousand gallons of avgas consumed by these automobiles. There may be damage to the cats and oxygen sensors in these cars, but will the money taken in the state administered fines and suits actually go to the drivers to repair their cars?
Howie May 30, 2013 at 07:27 PM
how about the terminal was under water and had to empty the bulk tank quick- so the fuel was discounted to a price the retail stations couldn't refuse.
Howie May 30, 2013 at 07:28 PM
read my comment above- remember we had a storm go through here which crippled many terminals in the north jersey area.
David Fisch May 30, 2013 at 07:29 PM
Has anyone considered the possibility that we are being grossly overcharged for AVGAS? I'm sure the distributor bought the AVGAS for a price that allowed a profit for himself and his retailers. Wake up GA! We've been taken for a ride.
Bill May 30, 2013 at 07:31 PM
I wish I knew I would have bought every gallon! To say they were scamming when clearly someone was losing money is ridiculous. I guess rather than go after real crimes to justify their existence they're taking the easy way out. If this statement ins't true then they're simply dumber than a box of rocks!
john jorges May 30, 2013 at 08:12 PM
love it.
Gee Whizz May 30, 2013 at 08:13 PM
I'd buy all the AVGAS 100LL I could get for a discounted MOGAS price, truck it to the midwest or west coast, and still make a nice profit. There are only four (4) refineries in the USA which on a cycle will make AVGAS. The demand is always there and price is the limiting factor. Many GA aircraft are parked or sold. Never heard of a distributor stocking AVGAS. It usually comes directly from the refinery when they have it. One often has to go to an more distant refinery when desperate and eat the additional transportation cost. Aviation FUEL Manager "G"
Edward Peterson May 30, 2013 at 08:17 PM
In the picture with the article Premium is going for $3.37 a gallon! And that was avgas! I'm in California, and depending on which airport, avgas goes for roughly twice that price. Which company in California was selling avgas so cheap that it could be trucked all the way across the country and still be sold so cheap?
john jorges May 30, 2013 at 08:19 PM
We used to buy the old Texaco avgas when it was 104+ octane for running races at Raceway Park (Oldbridge airport) I even had my plane siphoned when I was at Belmar (BLM). Wall Twp Raceway is down the street. Good race fuel. The cost between the two is very different and the need to off the avgas quickly had to be- "get a couple of bucks a gallon or lose all of it". The lead can mess up a converted in a car, but you need to use a lot. One tankful is hardly enough to do damage. I once ran a 50-50 mix of regular gas and kerosene in a 1984 Olds 88. Aside from valve ping when going uphill, there was no permanent problem. No smoke either (which was the intention in the first place).
Rich May 30, 2013 at 08:20 PM
I highly suspect Zephyr was "dumping" the avgas for fear of losing it. Better to sell at a small loss than lose everything. Having investigated the possibility of putting a self-serve facility at my airport, I can tell you that the main reason for the high cost of avgas is the very, very small quantities produced relative to mogas - and the fact that it requires separate transport. As of a couple years ago, no avgas is transported by pipeline (which it used to be), so everything has to move by barge, train or truck. This happened because of the "fear" that the lead in avgas was contaminating the pipelines. As another commentor noted, this irrational fear of lead contamination is really stupid - but that is the reality.
Captain Joe May 30, 2013 at 08:30 PM
Although beyond the scope of this article, what you say is actually not true. Even 100LL has more lead than the old automobile mixes from the 70s. AVGAS before 100LL (i.e., 100 octane) was even more toxic than that.
Bruce A. Frank May 30, 2013 at 08:43 PM
Captain Joe, I raced in the '60s and '70's on pump gas that had octane levels, accomplished with Tetra-ethel-lead, that exceeded 105 rating. Avgas has, in the past, been compounded, with octane ratings as high as 140. Avgas these days is 100LL, not that much lead.
Roger Halstead May 30, 2013 at 08:52 PM
I agree with captain Joe as it doesn't make sense for them to have it in the first place so the tank under water should be a moot point. The question becomes: Why would they have Av Gas to begin with and where did they get it? Av gas is a custom blend and limited quantity. About the only way they would likely get it would be by mistake with a replacement driver. IOW: They wouldn't normally want the stuff.
tdwelander May 30, 2013 at 08:58 PM
The price is not the issue. Whether the avgas harmed catalytic converters is the question. 100 low lead (LL) avgas has less than one part per million lead in it; just enough to lubricate and cool the valves on air cooled aircraft engines. The contaminants in auto gas are generally greater than one part per million. So it seems unlikely the avgas harmed any catalytic converters. Any chemist knowledgeable on this would be appreciated. Additionally, with all the junk in auto gas compared to avgas, it would be hard to believe any catalytic converters would be harmed. Any knowledgeable expert opinion would be appreciated. Or, the appearance is substituting avgas for any auto gas can probably be done any time safely; at least for a short time.
tdwelander May 30, 2013 at 09:02 PM
So 100LL avgas is probably a superior substitute for auto gas and the government is acting ignorant again.
John McGrew May 30, 2013 at 09:34 PM
Here here! In a sane America, Ralph Nader would be filing class action lawsuits on behalf of all consumers for the losses related to reduced fuel economy and damage to internal combustion engines.
John McGrew May 30, 2013 at 09:38 PM
Not likely. AvGas requires a specific grade of oil to produce, we're down to a single producer of the lead additive, there's far more liability for the producers, it can't be transported via pipeline and must be transported by truck, and the remaining refineries that produce it are basically doing so as charity; compared to MoGas, aviation barely uses enough AvGas to justify the trouble. We're lucky they still bother.
DBA May 30, 2013 at 09:41 PM
I just bought 10K gallons of 100LLfor my airfield in NC at $3.85/g. I would think that at 75k gallons the price would be low enough for profit at autogas prices. Especially if they were trying to dump it to prevent a total loss. I will list gas bought for 3.85/g at 5.25 so I cover my transport and storage. Compared to all the other services on the airfield, it is by far the lowest profit margin of any aviation service.
Oscar Goldman May 30, 2013 at 10:14 PM
Ethanol doesn't destroy catalytic converters the way lead does. Come on, cars have been configured to run fine on gasohol for decades. I don't think I've ever had pure gas in my car, and in 17 years it has had no engine or exhaust-system problems. The reduced mileage yielded by gasohol IS a legitimate gripe. Once upon a time, it was cheaper for this reason. But now that it's all you can buy, that "discount" of course has disappeared. The general-aviation community sat on its ass for the last 30 years instead of facing the fact that leaded fuel and pure gas are going away. No piston plane made today should be unable to run on gasohol, but here we are with the FAA and manufacturers wringing their hands over what to replace 100LL with. There is only one practical and worthwhile replacement: the gas you put in your car. And that gas contains alcohol, period.
Bob Smith May 30, 2013 at 10:22 PM
What is the bottom line here? they are making a big deal out of nothIng when you compare it to the massive rip off that is hitting us as a country by the US government. there is over a 100 years of oil under North and South Dakotas. Why not talk about the crime on the so called tree huggers and the fact that our government will not let us drill for that oil . We could have gas at .10 a gallon. Then you wouldn't need to buy black-market gas and get caught.
John McGrew May 30, 2013 at 10:23 PM
Oscar, It doesn't destroy catalytic converters, but it does destroy small non-automotive engines. It's impossible to store it more than a few months. For the last half-century or so Americans made sport of vilifying "big oil" for verious sins, but Ethanol is a complete fraud perpetrated upon us by our own government and clueless useful idiot do-gooders. It's time to be done with it.
Fred von Zabern May 30, 2013 at 10:51 PM
Bruce, thank you for commenting on "extremely toxic". This yellow journalism is what riles up environmentalists to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Yes, gasoline is poisonous but its also not feasible to make it completely harmless. The enviromentalists and left-wingers don't see it that way. They believe the "corporate jet owners" are overprivileged, and they would like to see avgas eliminated in the name of "fairness". I'm old enough to remember leaded auto gas, and as a kid, spent a lot of time rebuilding carburetors and other car parts that had leaded fuel in them. I can't count all the gallons of avgas I've encountedred in 30+ years as an aircraft mechanic. And I'm still alive. If this fish rag newspaper is going to classify the TEL in avgas as "extremely toxic" it would be nice to know what threshold they used to establish "extreme". Sheesh.
Jerry May 31, 2013 at 01:30 AM
I think that twelander needs to check his math. As of Jan 2010, 100LL has a TEL content of 1.2 to 2 grams TEL per US gallon, and is normally delivered at 2 grams per gallon. Each gram of TEL contains 600 milligrams of lead. So that is 1.2 grams of lead per 5.6 pounds (one gallon ) of avgas, or ~500 parts per million.
Angelo Forte May 31, 2013 at 01:46 AM
It dosn't matter how much oil is under south dakota do you think for one moment that the oil companys will sell fuel for an reasonable price?
John McGrew May 31, 2013 at 01:54 AM
"Reasonable" is whatever you'll be willing to pay. Stop paying, and the price will go down.
tdwelander May 31, 2013 at 04:57 PM
Even at the lead quantities you list, lead is less than the other toxic junk in auto gas. And lead being electrostatic and heavy, latches on to other toxins, falls to the surface and stays put unless disturbed. Or lead is the least undesirable of the many toxins floating around from volcanic emissions; 99% of the toxic emissions on the planet. More lead is placed in the atmosphere from volcanic emissions than all of the Earth's piston powered aircraft, another 99% volcanic emissions source. Or how ignorant people have been about human pollutants being irrelevant, especially lead; to date. Also, gas mileage improves with increasing octane number. 100 octane avgas is superior to any lower octane gas for performance. Meaning it is probably highly desirable to use avgas in autos as long as the avgas is cleaner than the auto gas; which is always the case based on what I know; due to the finicky nature (highly susceptible to thermal shocks and more importantly engine cylinder deposits, low suspended solids of avgas) in air cooled aircraft engines requiring the best available performance.
pskurla June 03, 2013 at 11:35 AM
Howie is all wet. There is plenty of storage space at airports in the NJ metro area to have shifted any AvGas that may have been at risk to flooding. That is IF there was a risk of flooding. The refineries in Linden are were not at risk in Sandy. Remember the storage tanks are sealed so even if a small flood on the outside the gas would be kept safe.
Drew June 07, 2013 at 02:51 AM
tdwelander is wrong...mileage is not affected by octane number. Octane represents how much energy is required to ignite the fuel/air mixture under compression. Higher octane is required to prevent detonation under load. Detonation is the pinging cars exhibit when under load with too low an octane numbered fuel. TEL is a cheap and easy way to increase octane number. That is until the EPA stepped in and phased out lead. For aircraft, TEL is the only practical way of getting the octane number to 100. 100 octane is needed for high compression aircraft engines that would be susceptible to detonation with octane ratings in the mid 90's.

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