The Colonial Pipeline cyberattack is causing gasoline shortages across the eastern U.S., as evidenced Tuesday by growing lines at the pump.
Gas stations in the mid-Atlantic and the South have been hardest-hit, with some in states like North Carolina and Virginia running out of fuel. In other states where reserves have not been depleted, drivers are seeing long lines and extensive wait times.
A local CBS affiliate in South Carolina reported that drivers were forced to wait more than an hour for the opportunity to fuel their vehicles.
The situation results from a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, the nation’s largest pipeline refinery system, that left it paralyzed to deliver gasoline and other forms of energy. Colonial, which runs a series of pipelines from Texas to New Jersey, is responsible for delivering 45% of all fuel consumed on the East Coast.
The attack is believed to be the work of a mysterious Russian hacker group called DarkSide.
Although the matter is currently being investigated by federal law enforcement, it may take days for Colonial to restore its operation to full speed.
In the meantime, both the federal government and its counterpart in the states are mobilizing to alleviate the shortages.
On Monday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency as lines formed at gas stations across the state. Mr. Cooper, a Democrat, suspended vehicle fuel regulations in hopes of freeing up access to gasoline.
“Today’s emergency declaration will help North Carolina prepare for any potential motor vehicle fuel supply interruptions across the state and ensure motorists are able to have access to fuel,” the governor said.
Likewise, the Biden administration is “evaluating every action” to “mitigate the impact as much as possible,” according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
The Environmental Protection Agency has already waived certain regulations, including those on vapor pressure, to bolster the supply of gasoline in Pennsylvania and the D.C. metropolitan region.
“As a result of the Colonial Pipeline shutdown, Administrator 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,” the agency said.
The shortage is likely to only push up gas prices, which were already on the rise.
In the past week, according to the American Automobile Association, the cost for a regular gallon of gasoline had jumped six cents to an average of $2.96 nationwide.
Retail prices for gasoline and diesel have jumped nearly 30% since November, when the average was $2.20 a gallon.
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