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Va. Governor declares state of emergency amid Colonial Pipeline shutdown

Many drivers head to the pumps amid the Colonial Pipeline shutdown.
Many drivers head to the pumps amid the Colonial Pipeline shutdown.(NBC12)
Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 2:46 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Tuesday amid the ongoing distribution issues from the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline.

The pipeline is one of Virginia’s largest fuel providers and was shut down over the weekend after a ransomware cyber-attack on May 7; the pipeline runs from Texas to New York Harbor.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a temporary emergency fuel waiver to help deal with shortages in states whose supply of reformulated gas is impacted by the shutdown.

“EPA has waived the federal Reid vapor pressure requirements for fuel sold in Reformulated Gasoline areas of District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia to facilitate the supply of gasoline,” a news release stated. “This waiver will continue through May 18, 2021.”

Reformulated gas is typically used during the summer months to cut down on carbon emissions.

Northam’s declaration allows for state agencies to issue their own waivers.

“Today’s emergency declaration helps Virginia prevent and respond to gas shortages across the Commonwealth,” Northam said. “With this increased flexibility and funding, we can respond to this evolving situation and ensure access to fuel for Virginia motorists.”

Meanwhile, AAA spokesman Morgan Dean said there was some good news announced Tuesday regarding the pipeline shutdown.

“They have restarted a section of the pipeline manually between Greensboro, North Carolina and Woodbine, Maryland,” he said. “The hope there is they can serve our area and some of the other areas out there and get some more fuel back out there, which would be good news.”

However, there is no word when the mainline, including the gasoline line, will be operational, but the hope is by this weekend.

That has not stopped drivers from speeding to area gas stations to fill up their tanks.

Many customers believe others are “panic-buying” due to fear of a shortage. However, AAA said fuel supply is fine, it is mainly a distribution problem where tankers are unable to collect gasoline and transport it along the coast.

“AAA recommends drivers fill up when they get down to a quarter of a tank,” Dean said. “If you continue to fill up every day, and do some of that panic-buying, you’re actually going to make the problem worse; it’s going to create un-needed demand and that’s actually going to drain the tanks quicker.”

Some Virginia stations run out of gas as pipeline shutdown continues ]

AAA urges against panic-buying of gasoline, and offers these tips:

  • Plan ahead to accomplish multiple errands in one trip, and whenever possible avoid high-traffic times of day.
  • If you own more than one car, use the most fuel-efficient model that meets the needs of any given journey.
  • Remove unnecessary and bulky items from your car. Minimize your use of roof racks and remove special carriers when not in use. It takes more fuel to accelerate a heavier car, and the reduction in fuel economy is greater for small cars than for larger models.
  • Minimize your use of air conditioning. Even at highway speeds, open windows have less effect on fuel economy than the engine power required to operate the air conditioning compressor.
  • In hot weather, park in the shade or use a windshield sunscreen to lessen heat buildup inside the car. This reduces the need for air conditioning (and thus fuel) to cool down the car.

This is a developing story. Check back later for updates.

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