Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm warned gasoline station operators across the country on Tuesday that price gouging would not be tolerated amid shortages caused by the cyber attack on the Colonial Pipeline system.
“We expect that [gasoline] station owners are and should act responsibly,” said Ms. Granholm when discussing the crisis. “We will have no tolerance for price-gouging, federal and state officials will be investigating those actions if we see price-gouging.”
Over the weekend, a ransomware attack crippled the operations of Colonial Pipeline, the nation’s largest pipeline system.
The company’s series of pipelines, which run from the Gulf Coast to the harbor of New York, can carry more than three billion barrels of gasoline daily. It’s responsible for delivering 45% of all fuel consumed on the East Coast.
On Tuesday, the hack’s impact was felt as long lines began to form at gasoline stations, with some drivers having to wait for more than an hour for fuel. In some states, including North Carolina and Virginia, fueling stations ran out of gasoline altogether.
The shortages have also resulted in a rise in prices, according to some consumers. Local news outlets throughout the southeastern U.S. have reported that several gasoline stations have boosted prices.
At one station in North Carolina, in particular, consumers claimed the price of one gallon of gasoline had jumped from $2.69 to more than three dollars overnight.
The American Automobile Association asserts that in the past week alone, the price for a regular unleaded gallon of gasoline had jumped six cents to an average of $2.96 nationwide.
“The crunch is in the areas that are affected by the pipeline … [where] there is not a whole lot of supply,” said Ms. Granholm. “That’s why we’re going to see the crunch.”
Some of the states impacted are already mobilizing to prevent the threat. South Carolina’s Republican Attorney General, Alan Wilson, has announced that his office would prosecute price gougers to the full effect of the law.
“I’m urging everyone to be careful and be patient,” said Mr. Wilson. “We hope this gas shortage will last just a few days, but we must be wary of individuals looking to unfairly take advantage of the situation through price gouging.”
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