U.S. Energy Secretary: No Need to Hoard Fuel After Pipeline Outage

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on Tuesday there are no gasoline shortages in the wake of the Colonial Pipeline shutdown and that consumers should report any instances of price gouging of motor fuel.

"It's not that we have a gasoline shortage, it's that we have this supply crunch, and that things will be back to normal soon," Granholm told reporters at the White House. "We are asking people not to hoard" fuel.

The oil products pipeline which runs from the Gulf Coast to the New York region, has been down since Friday after a ransomware attack by parties the government believes to be in Russia.

Products (SE) Pipe Line Corporation (PPL), formerly known as Plantation Pipe Line Company, covers much of the same territory and remains online and in full service following Colonial Pipeline Company’s announcement regarding the cyberattack on its system, the company said in a statement. PPL is working with customers to accommodate additional barrels during Colonial’s downtime.

“Furthermore, we are deferring any non-essential maintenance that might otherwise reduce flowrates to the extent possible while we ensure the safe and reliable operation of the PPL system.  We will continue to work under industry best practices and in coordination with our customers and regulators as the situation evolves,” the statement said. “The PPL system mainlines are fully subscribed and frozen for the month of May and any non-essential maintenance is being deferred.”

Granholm said administration officials have spoken with governors of states in the South and mid-Atlantic who are concerned about fuel supplies after the shutdown of the pipeline, the country's largest.

She said there is enough gasoline to go around, but it has to be transported to the right places and the government is taking measures to ease some regulations. The pipeline is expected to be back running in a few days said Granholm, echoing what Colonial has said.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said his department is ready to issue a waiver of the Jones Act if any requests are made by shippers. A waiver of the Jones Act could help relieve fuel supply constraints by allowing foreign-flagged vessels to begin shipping petroleum products, such as gasoline and diesel, from the Gulf of Mexico to Northeastern ports

On Sunday the Department of Transportation issued a temporary hours-of-service exemption for transporting gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

Granholm urged motorists to report to their state attorneys general any cases of fuel-price gouging.

"We expect that gas station owners are and should act responsibly," she said. "We will have no tolerance for price gouging. Federal and state officials will be investigating those actions if they see price gouging."

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