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Gas shortage creates 1,000+ empty stations; 17-state regional emergency declared by DOT

Gas prices (Tewy/WikiCommons)
May 12, 2021

More than 1,000 gas stations have run out of fuel after the nation’s largest pipeline was hacked, leading the U.S. Department of Transportation to announce a regional emergency declaration impacting 17 states and the District of Columbia on Sunday.

The DOT’s regional emergency declaration includes Alabama, Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, giving the impacted states the authority to transport gasoline and other fuels via interstate highways.  

Disruptions in access to fuel also prompted Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC), Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA), Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA), and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) to declare states of emergency independent of the DOT, allowing each state to activate the National Guard as needed, according to DW.

On Friday, the Colonial Pipeline, which delivers almost half of the fuel consumed on the East Coast, was the victim of a cyberattack by hackers who demanded a ransom in exchange for unlocking hacked computer systems controlling the pipeline. According to the New York Post, North Carolina and Virginia have been hit hardest by the crisis, with 8.5 percent and 7.7 percent of stations out of gas, respectively.

Some of the pipeline’s operations were resumed manually on Monday, and on late Wednesday afternoon, the company announced it had resumed operations.

Florida Gov. DeSantis slammed the Biden administration’s handling of cyberattack, telling Fox News’ Sean Hannity, “This pipeline actually doesn’t touch Florida, but it does feed into many of our gas stations. So we declared a state of emergency. We’re lifting restrictions to be able to get more fuel in the pumps.”

On Monday, White House officials said they had not advised Colonial Pipeline on whether to meet the hackers’ demands and pay the ransom, calling it “a private sector decision.”

“The Biden administration needs to take this seriously,” DeSantis continued. “Their initial response is, ‘Oh, this is a private pipeline,’ and just shrug their shoulders. This is important infrastructure for our country, and it could impact our economy greatly if they don’t respond.”

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on Tuesday that the country was seeing a supply crunch, not a gasoline shortage.

“It’s that we have this supply crunch, and that things will be back to normal soon, and that we’re asking people not to hoard,” Granholm said, adding, “We have gasoline. We just have to get it to the right places.”

Biden’s White House issued a statement Tuesday detailing the administration’s response to the gas crisis, writing, “The Administration is focused on avoiding potential energy supply disruptions to impacted communities, the U.S. military, and other facilities reliant on gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other refined petroleum products. The Administration is continually assessing the pipeline shutdown’s impact on the U.S. fuel supply, as well as what additional actions are available to mitigate the impact of the pipeline’s shutdown.”

According to the Energy Secretary, the DOT is considering transporting fuel in a number of ways, including by railcar, on waterways and via trucks, but Granholm noted that “the pipe is the best way to go.” Her statement comes months after President Joe Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone Pipeline, which would improve crude oil transportation from Canada and the United States to Gulf Coast refineries.