The Biden administration moved Tuesday to ease gasoline shortages caused by a ransomware attack on the nation’s largest pipeline network, as concerns grew that spiking fuel prices and supply disruptions could hinder travel while the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.
The actions are among
“We’re going to move in lightning speed,” Homeland Security Secretary
Filling stations across the East Coast were reporting outages four days after hackers stole data and locked
“We know that we have gasoline, we just have to get it to the right places,” Granholm said. “It’s not that we have a gasoline shortage, it’s that we have this supply crunch.”
“Things will be back to normal soon,” she added. “We’re asking people not to hoard and know that we’re all over this.”
The Colonial Pipeline should be substantially operational by the end of the week or the weekend, she said, while arguing there was “no cause for hoarding gasoline,” and the administration “will have no tolerance for price gouging.” States most affected by the shutdown are North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and southern Virginia, Granholm said.
The Biden administration issued an order on Sunday extending the amount of time truck drivers can spend behind the wheel when transporting fuel across 17 states and the District of Columbia. On Tuesday evening, the Transportation Department said 10 states could allow heavier-than-normal truck loads of gasoline and other fuels.
“It is hard for elected officials to do nothing when pump prices are rising,” said
The staggered response so far reflects expectations, said
From Virginia to Louisiana, convenience stores and corner gas stations are turning away customers as tanks tap out amid panic buying. An extended pipeline disruption could have far-reaching implications for East Coast states dependent on the pipeline, prompting bigger government interventions.
The EPA orders Tuesday allow the sale of gasoline that doesn’t satisfy requirements meant to help combat smog in certain areas. An initial order allowed the sale of conventional gasoline in areas where reformulated gasoline is required across Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
A second order, issued Tuesday evening, went further by waiving low-volatility requirements governing conventional and reformulated gasoline in those initial areas as well as Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, some counties in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
The moves give retailers the flexibility to market gasoline that might be available despite the Colonial Pipeline shutdown.
“I have determined that an ‘extreme and unusual fuel supply circumstance’ exists that will prevent the distribution of an adequate supply of compliant gasoline to consumers,” EPA Administrator
Fuel waivers are commonly used to stem supply disruptions after hurricanes and other disasters. It’s unclear, however, how much help they would be now, without a major pipeline to ferry the fuels to markets up and down the Atlantic Seaboard. Energy analysts say potentially greater benefits could come after the Colonial Pipeline restarts, by allowing refiners and blenders to market more varieties of fuel for regions short on gasoline.
(Updates with details on new fuel waivers, from second paragraph.)
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