Gas prices expected to rise, shortages possible

Published 5:39 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Colonial Pipeline explosion in Alabama has Beaufort County residents worried about the potential for more gas shortages.

On Monday, Colonial crews were working to repair Line 1 in Shelby County, Alabama, following the leak in September, and a piece of equipment punctured the line, causing gasoline to spill out and leading a dangerous explosion. One of the crewmembers died, and others suffered severe burns.

Officials across the Eastern Seaboard are now warning residents that the explosion will likely lead to higher gas prices and shortages in some areas. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper issued a press release stating that the laws protecting consumers against price gouging are still in effect. Gov. Pat McCrory also issued a fuel plan to help regulate rising prices.

“Consumers are our eyes and ears on the ground, and we use their complaints to investigate possible price gouging,” Cooper said in the release.

John Pack, director of Beaufort County Emergency Management, said this area might see some of the same effects as were experienced during the previous pipeline breach in September, but residents should not panic.

“Really don’t want them to panic again because that took all the fuel out, which made it even harder,” Pack said. “We report daily on fuel issues, and we will be bringing on a part-time person who will be assisting us here.”

The good news is that the eastern part of the state is not expected to be as impacted by the pipeline explosion as other parts, according to Pack.

After the September shortage, Pack said crews learned how to deliver gasoline via barge to Wilmington, and then disperse it to bulk suppliers. Emergency Management is also able to designate previously hard-hit areas, such as Aurora, as sites in need of a special fuel drop.

While Line 1 held gasoline, the parallel-running Line 2 held diesel and jet fuel. Pack said Colonial Pipeline plans to clean out Line 2 and run gasoline through it by tonight to help stymie shortages.

In Beaufort County, Emergency Management is making sure all emergency vehicles have full tanks, as well as the vehicles used for debris pickup, which is still on for today, he said.

“At the present time, Beaufort County Schools, nor Beaufort County government, is anticipating curtailing any necessary activities,” Pack said. “Above all things, we do not want people to panic.”

Colonial Pipeline officials estimate Line 1 will be shut down at least through the rest of the week.