Northam declares state of emergency related to gas pipeline shutdown
Says current reserves are sufficient for short shutdown
Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Tuesday, five days after the Colonial Pipeline was shut down due to a cyber-attack. The Texas pipeline is the primary source of gasoline for many retailers in Virginia and elsewhere on the East Coast, so its prolonged closure would interrupt distribution of gas to the state, the order says.
According to Northam’s executive order, “While current gasoline reserves in the commonwealth are sufficient to address immediate supply concerns, a long-term disruption in the pipelines will require transportation of fuel and other oil-derivatives via interstate and state roadways,” and the state of emergency will allow the state to use an emergency fuel waiver to help alleviate potential fuel shortages.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan issued the waiver, in effect through May 18, earlier Tuesday for Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland and Pennsylvania.
According to the EPA, Regan determined that “extreme and unusual fuel supply circumstances exist and has granted a temporary waiver to help ensure that an adequate supply of gasoline is available in the affected areas until normal supply to the region can be restored.”
In Virginia, 8% of gas stations had run out of gas as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, although that’s likely due more to panic buying than an actual shortage, according to GasBuddy, which tracks gas prices nationwide. Governors of North Carolina and Georgia have also taken steps to alleviate a future shortage and rising fuel prices.
Northam’s order, which also activates a state law against price gouging, is in full effect until June 10 unless rescinded by a later order. The order implements a state emergency operations plan and assistance from state emergency management teams to state, local and tribal governments. It also authorizes the heads of executive branch agencies to waive normal regulations and “enter into contracts without regard to normal procedures or formalities.”
Attorney Gen. Mark Herring’s office said Wednesday morning that if consumers believe they’re a victim of price gouging specific to motor fuel, they can call the state’s consumer protection hotline or contact the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin, D-4th, urged anyone who sees “exceptionally high-priced gas” to call the Virginia attorney general’s consumer protection hotline at (800) 552-9963. “I am aware of a suspected case of price gouging in my district and there may well be others. Price gouging is illegal.” McEachin also advised people not to “panic and fill their gas tanks if it’s not needed. This creates long lines at the pump and contributes to heightened feelings of panic and concern and could potentially artificially create shortages.”
McEachin added that the pipeline is expected to be back up and functioning by the end of the week, although he hopes the federal government will “thoroughly investigate this hacking and to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
On Monday, the FBI said a group of criminal hackers called DarkSide are to blame for a ransomware attack that disrupted about half of gasoline and jet fuel supplies to the East Coast, according to The New York Times.