Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency after a cyber attack shut down the Colonial Pipeline which supplies nearly half of the fuel consumed on the East Coast.
Speaking in Jacksonville Tuesday, DeSantis said steps were being taken to make sure enough gasoline reaches the state.
“We’re relaxing restrictions in terms of the weight in order to get more fuel trucks into the parts of Florida that need more fuel. But ultimately we really do need the federal government to step up and help. We don’t want to see these long gas lines persist throughout the northern part of our state.”
In addition to allowing the Florida National Guard to be called up if needed, his emergency declaration also makes it illegal to charge, quote, unconscionable prices for essential goods and services while the state of emergency is in effect.
More than a thousand gas stations in the Southeast have reported running out of fuel, primarily because of panic-buying.
Earlier in the day, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried urged people to remain calm. “Floridians: don’t panic-buy gas, don’t hoard gas, and don’t form long lines at gas stations during the #GasShortage,” Fried tweeted.
The AAA Auto Club noted that Florida gets most of its fuel through seaports from Gulf Coast refineries.
Mark Jenkins, with AAA, said Wednesday individual gas stations are struggling to keep up with the unusually strong demand.
“These gas stations only have so much gasoline at one given time. And if there’s a tremendous surge in drivers that pull up, then they’re going to be left without fuel and then wait for the next delivery. But here’s the thing: deliveries continue here in Florida.”
Jenkins says 90% of the state’s gasoline comes in on cargo ships and is then delivered to gas stations via tanker-trucks.
In the meantime, the federal government is bolstering Florida’s supply by allowing the sale of both winter- and summer-blend gasoline.
Gas stations are required to switch to summer-blend each spring in order to comply with clean air standards.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp temporarily suspended the gas tax in his state and he has lifted weight limits on trucks transporting fuel.
The cyber attack, believed to be by a Russian group called Dark Side, resulted in the pipeline temporarily halting operations on Friday.
The pipeline transports fuel from Texas to the Northeast, providing about 45 percent of the East Coast’s supply.
A decision about fully resuming operations on the pipeline is expected Wednesday, while some smaller lines remain in operation. “Things will be back to normal soon, (and) we’re asking people not to hoard … we’re all over this,” U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told reporters Tuesday during the White House press briefing.
The Biden administration said federal agencies are responding and urged consumers to remain calm and only buy what they need, assuring the public the pipeline will be back and running at full capacity soon.
"We're working around the clock with our federal, state, local and industry partners to respond to the Colonial Pipeline cybersecurity incident," U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Dave Turk said in a video Twitter statement on Tuesday evening.
The department has said officials are considering moving supply by train or ship if necessary. Additionally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued temporary fuel transportation waivers to increase the supply of gasoline.