Government removes highway restrictions as east coast states weather fuel shortages

Northeast

A note posted at a gas pump indicates the pump is out of premium gasoline at a Costco Warehouse fuel station, Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Ridgeland, Miss. State officials warn that any shortages seen at individual gas stations are a result of people “panic buying,” and not the Colonial Pipeline shutdown itself. They call on residents to limit unnecessary travel and to only buy as much gasoline as they need. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — In a sign of escalating consequences from last week’s Colonial Pipeline hack, the White House is suspending some regulations to ease fuel shortages on the east coast.

It comes as a majority of gas stations in metro areas like Atlanta and Charlotte are running dry, according to industry website GasBuddy.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Department of Transportation will allow overweight trucks to carry fuel on interstates in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

The Environmental Protection Agency is also waiving rules on gasoline volatility in 11 states, the District of Columbia, and certain counties of Florida.

Psaki wrote the U.S. is not yet suspending the Jones Act. It’s a 1920 law that requires any goods transported between U.S. ports to be on ships built, owned and crewed by U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

This comes two days after Psaki and Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall said they were not expecting shortages as a result of the hack. DarkSide, a known cyber gang based overseas, infected a vital fuel pipeline with ransomware late last week, and it’s been down ever since.

Colonial expects to have the pipeline flowing again by Friday.

Despite the White House preaching calm, there have already been consequences in the fuel market. American Airlines added stops to at least two of its previously nonstop flights from southeastern locations. And even with reassurances that supply would not be an issue, the fear of a problem has inspired many to buy gasoline, leading to shortages.

This was already expected to be a turbulent year for gasoline. The national average hit $3 per gallon Wednesday morning for the first time since 2014 as demand rises while the pandemic subsides.

Patrick De Haan, spokesperson for GasBuddy, said another issue compounding the pipeline shutdown is a shortage of drivers.

“Last year, when demand for gasoline plummeted 60% overnight, a lot of truck drivers that have special certifications to deliver gasoline were laid off,” he said in an April 28 interview with NewsNation. “So now the economy’s come roaring back. Some of those drivers aren’t necessarily coming back.”

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