The governors of Georgia and Alabama have declared a state of emergency amid fears of fuel shortages caused by a breach in a major pipeline that spilled a quarter million gallons of refined gasoline in Shelby County, Ala., Friday.
The pipeline operator, Colonial Pipeline, predicted that Alabama and other southeastern states would be the first to feel the impact of the pipeline’s shut down. The pipeline runs from Houston, Texas, to New York and is the main gasoline artery linking Houston refineries to the rest of the Eastern Seaboard.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal was the first to declare a state of emergency, followed by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who issued a similar executive order Thursday. Colonial Pipeline said it briefed officials in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas about the situation and “potential disruptions in supply.”
The state of emergency declarations will allow fuel truck delivery drivers in Alabama and Georgia to drive longer hours and exceed federal hours-of-service rules designed to mitigate commercial driver fatigue by capping driving hours and mandating rest periods.
The ease on driving restrictions, which applies only to fuel truck drivers, will help deliver fuel to areas normally served by the pipeline. Some suppliers have also started shipping refined gasoline by sea from Houston to New York.
Al.com reported that Colonial operates a second major pipeline, called Line 2, that runs alongside the damaged pipeline and carries jet fuel, diesel, and other non-gasoline fuels. That line is now transporting gasoline from Houston as far as western Alabama to keep pace with fuel demands.
Colonial’s Houston-New York pipeline transports about 1.3 million barrels of gasoline per day. Federal Environmental Protection Agency officials said they believe the gasoline spill is contained at the spill site. They did not expect it to reach the environmentally sensitive Cahaba River, which is home to a number of endangered species.
Governor Bentley finished the state of emergency declaration by stressing that “it is unlawful for any person within the State of Alabama to impose unconscionable prices for the sale of any commodity during the period of a declared State of Emergency.”