Colonial Pipeline restarted, fuel levels will remain low for several days

Southeast

RALEIGH, N.C. (NewsNation Now) — The Colonial Pipeline restarted operations Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET. after it was stalled for days due to a ransomware attack, according to the company and The White House.

The administration did warn fuel will not immediately return to normal levels.

“Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal. Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period. Colonial will move as much gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel as is safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal,” said Colonial Pipeline in a statement.

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.

“President Biden and the White House will monitor the situation closely in the coming days, and continue to urge Americans to just purchase what they need, and not hoard fuel, as supply is restored,” press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Thursday.

The Colonial Pipeline, which delivers about 45% of what is consumed on the East Coast, was hit on Friday with a cyberattack by hackers who lock up computer systems and demand a ransom to release them. The attack raised concerns, once again, about the vulnerability of the nation’s critical infrastructure.

A gasoline station that ran out of gas for sale displays an out of service sign on the pump on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Atlanta. Gasoline futures are ticking higher following a cyberextortion attempt on the Colonial Pipeline, a vital U.S. pipeline that carries fuel from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

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.

“What you’re feeling is not a lack of supply or a supply issue. What we have is a transportation issue,” said Jeanette McGee, spokeswoman for the AAA auto club. “There is ample supply to fuel the United States for the summer, but what we’re having an issue with is getting it to those gas stations because the pipeline is down.”

In North Carolina, 28% of gas stations were out of fuel, according to Gasbuddy.com, a technology firm that tracks real-time fuel prices across the country. In Raleigh-Durham it was worse, with 72% of gas stations out of fuel.

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper urged people Wednesday to only buy gas if their tank is low, and to report any instances of price gouging.

“We will continue our efforts to help make sure there is an adequate supply of fuel,” Cooper wrote on Twitter.

Cooper declared a state of emergency Monday, initiating fuel waivers that make it easier to transport fuel into the state.

Georgians were also getting squeezed, with 17.5% of stations there out of gas, according to Gasbuddy.com. In Virginia, 17% of stations were out, and in South Carolina, 16% had no fuel.

A large part of the pipeline resumed operations manually late Monday, and Colonial anticipates restarting most of its operations by the end of the week, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said Tuesday.

However, the disruption is taking place at the time of year when Americans begin to become more mobile, especially as the nation emerges from the pandemic.

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.

“You go to some states, and you’re going to see much higher increases, especially in the South, because that’s where you’re seeing the largest impact in terms of strain of gasoline, or strain of people,” McGee said.

A company that operates a major U.S. energy pipeline says it was forced to temporarily halt all pipeline operations following a cybersecurity attack.

The AAA expects more than 37 million people to travel at least 50 miles from home during the Memorial Day weekend, up 60% from last year, which was the lowest since AAA began keeping records in 2000.

Multiple U.S. agencies are coordinating efforts to avert any potential shortage, should they arise.

The White House said Wednesday that the Department of Transportation is now allowing Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia to use interstate highways to transport overweight loads of gasoline and other fuels under existing disaster declarations.

The department’s Maritime Administration completed a review of potential actions available under the Jones Act, a U.S. maritime law that requires shipments between U.S. ports, including fuel, to be moved by American-flagged ships.

The Department of Homeland Security is prepared to review any temporary Jones Act waiver requests from companies if there is not sufficient capacity to get to regions suffering fuel shortages, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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