The White House has addressed the mounting concerns of fuel shortages across the US Southeast, as the country enters into the fifth day of the Colonial Pipeline being shut down due to a ransomware attack.
“We are monitoring supply shortages in parts of the Southeast and are evaluating every action the Administration can take to mitigate the impact as much as possible,” said Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, late Monday evening.
Gas stations across the Southeast have reported running out of fuel amid the pipeline closure.
As of Tuesday morning, 7.6 per cent of Virginia, 4.8 per cent of North Carolina, 3.3 per cent of Georgia, and 2.4 per cent of Florida gas stations were all out of fuel, according to data compiled by GasBuddy.
Gas prices were also on the rise due to the anticipated shortage. The national average jumped six cents this week to $2.96, an average the country hasn’t witnessed since 2014.
Panic buying has likely led to shortages at fuel stations and price hikes across the East Coast.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an emergency fuel waiver on Tuesday to help alleviate fuel shortages in states after their supply was impacted by the pipeline shutdown. This was in an effort to keep the industry stable as officials work to bring the pipeline back online.
Colonial Pipeline, which operates a 5,500-mile pipeline system that carries more than 100 million gallons of fuel from Texas to New Jersey per day, was forced to completely shut down its system on Friday following a ransomware attack by Russian-based group DarkSide.
On Monday, the company released a statement to update the public on the status of restoring full service to the system.
“Segments of our pipeline are being brought back online in a stepwise fashion, in compliance with relevant federal regulations and in close consultation with the Department of Energy, which is leading and coordinating the Federal Government’s response,” the company said.
The company’s operations team is “executing a plan that involves an incremental process that will facilitate a return to service in a phased approach” with “the goal of substantially restoring operational service by the end of the week,” according to the statement.
Returning the pipeline to normal operations by the weekend would likely not be quick enough to prevent price hikes and shortages, given states were already reporting problems.
The shortages encouraged North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper to declare a state of emergency on Monday to ensure that the state maintains its steady gasoline supply amid the shutdown. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp also suspended the state’s gas sales tax temporarily.
“If the interruption persists, we will see more regional impacts than nation-wide, in terms of supply and prices. The south/southeast (Maryland to Mississippi to Georgia), will likely see gas prices increase first,” the AAA said in a statement to Reuters.
“The shorter the pipeline shutdown, the better news for motorists.”