WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden Thursday told Americans to “not panic” or hoard gas as the Colonial Pipeline restarted operations after it was stalled for days due to a ransomware attack.
The Colonial Pipeline said late Thursday it had restarted its entire pipeline system and delivery in all markets it serves. The company said it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal along its 5,500 mile route, which delivers 45% of the fuel that is consumer on the East Coast.
“They should be reaching full operational capacity as we speak, as I speak to you right now,” Biden said Thursday. “That is good news. But I want to be clear. You will not feel the effects at the pump immediately. This is not like flicking on a light switch.”
Some markets “may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions,” Colonial Pipeline said in a statement, echoing Biden who said earlier there could be “hiccups.”
The pipeline, which carries 100 million gallons per day of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, resumed computer-controlled pumping late Wednesday after adding safety measures.
State and federal officials have been scrambling to find alternate routes to deliver gasoline in the Southeast U.S. after panic-buying contributed to more than 1,000 gas stations running out of fuel. The pipeline runs from the Gulf Coast to the New York metropolitan region, but states in the Southeast are more reliant on the pipeline for fuel. Other parts of the country have more sources to tap. For example, a substantial amount of fuel is delivered to states in the Northeast by massive tankers.
Gasoline shortages worsened from Virginia to Florida as depots and distribution centers awaited supply. The shutdown also forced two refineries to curb output and spurred airlines to reroute flights to refuel at airports outside the impacted area. Motorists’ tempers frayed as panic buying led stations to run out even where supplies were available.
The pipeline’s restart should bring supplies to some hard-hit areas as soon as Thursday, said U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
Colonial said in a notice to its shippers that the system is approximately 5-1/2 days behind current scheduled times. “Certain line segments were operated manually during the downtime and may be ahead of the 5-1/2-day estimated delay,” the notice said.
The national average price for a gallon of gasoline ticked above $3 for the first time since 2016 Wednesday, according to the AAA auto club. Prices begin to rise around this time every year and the AAA auto club said Wednesday that the average price hit $3.008 nationally.
Biden warned gas stations to not price gouge.
“Do not, I repeat, do not try to take advantage of consumers during this time, Biden said. “I’m going to work with governors in the affected states to put a stop to price gouging, wherever it arises.”
Biden declined to comment on reports that Colonial Pipeline paid a ransom to the hackers.
The technology firm Gasbuddy.com found that 28% of stations were out of fuel in North Carolina. In Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia, more than 16% of stations were without gas. Colonial issued a statement Thursday morning that said it expected to be “receiving product” from the system by midday.
After the cyberattack and a string of other high-profile ransomware attacks, Biden signed an executive order Wednesday to strengthen the country’s cyber defense practices.
The executive order creates an increased private-public partnership to ensure the U.S. is protected against future attacks, modernizes the cybersecurity practices of the federal government and implements an “energy star” style rating system for software companies.
Biden also said the U.S. does not believe the Russian government was involved in the ransomware attack but said the administration believes the suspects who committed the attack are living in Russia.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.