Colonial Pipeline restarts main gasoline line Wednesday, officials say

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Colonial Pipeline has restarted the gasoline pipeline in Alabama that was shut down after a major leak, which caused shortages and surging fuel prices across the South, including the Charlotte area, company officials said Wednesday night in a statement.

The company has estimated that up to 336,000 gallons of gasoline leaked from the line.

After restarting the line, officials said it will take several days for the fuel delivery supply chain to return to normal.

In the wake of last week's fuel pipeline leak in Alabama, the state attorney general's office has received reports of more than 1,000 incidents of price gouging at gas stations within four days.

Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency Friday in North Carolina because of a leak in a major fuel pipeline in Alabama. McCrory activated North Carolina's State Emergency Response Team Monday to coordinate with counties in need of fuel supplies.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley also issued an executive order Monday afternoon that lifted federal transportation rules so fuel trucks could make deliveries as quickly as possible.

A new bypass pipeline segment was completed after the leak, Colonial Pipeline officials said Tuesday.

Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline might experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions.

Colonial Pipeline officials said they will continue to move as much gasoline, diesel and jet fuel as possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal. The price gouging law is in effect because of the limited supplies of gasoline.

Click here for online complaint form for price gouging.

Action 9 was told that the Charlotte area is getting only about one-third of its usual amount of gas right now.

"That is incredibly positive news," McCrory said after Colonial Pipeline said a fix was in place.

He urged drivers not to rush out and fill up, saying that it only makes the situation worse.

"We're sometimes our own worst enemy in responding to a crisis like this,” McCrory said.

Drivers have been getting progressively more nervous, worried that the gas shortage will soon be a gas outage.

"I don't want to have to ride around town looking for it," driver Stephanie Hooks said.

When they find gasoline, some drivers are having to pay more for it. Action 9 checked AAA's numbers for the average price in Charlotte:

  • Last month: $1.97
  • Last week: $2.03
  • Monday: $2.19
  • Tuesday: $2.22

The attorney general's office took legal action Monday against a Greensboro-area gas station. Price gouging is defined as an "unreasonably excessive" price. There's no set percentage or dollar figure.

Officials are advising consumers that if they think they see price gouging, they should report it.

"We ask consumers to keep their receipts, to take cellphone pictures and to file written complaints with our office," Attorney General Roy Cooper said.

This is the second time since 2008 that the Charlotte area has experienced a shortage because of the pipeline.

McCrory expects problems to keep happening, because the pipeline, which is the region's main gasoline source, is old.

"We've asked in the past, when I was mayor of Charlotte when this issue came up, are there any other options, but you're talking in the billions of dollars, and questions would be where the money comes from,” McCrory said.

Timeline of events:

  • Sept. 9 - Colonial Pipeline officials discover a leak in the pipeline in Helena, Alabama. An estimated 6,000 to 8,000 barrels were spilled in a remote area of Shelby County.
  • Sept. 15 - Gov. Pat McCrory issues an executive order temporarily waiving hours of service restrictions for fuel vehicles traveling in and through the state in order to help prevent disruptions and backups at major fuel distribution hubs.
  • Sept. 16 - McCrory issues a second executive order that waives additional trucking restrictions and protects consumers from price gouging at the fuel pumps. Both executive orders remain in place for 30 days or until they are canceled.
  • Sept. 17 - Colonial Pipeline reveals that it would construct a bypass line around the leak site to restore completely Line 1 deliveries.
  • Sept. 18 - Colonial Pipeline leaders tell North Carolina emergency officials that they expect to have the pipeline bypass built by mid- to late week. Upon completion of the bypass, it will take several days for fuel flow levels to return to normal.
  • Sept. 20 - Colonial Pipeline leaders say they have installed a bypass and will start the main line Wednesday.

McCrory signs executive order

Channel 9 was the first to learn there was a leak in the Colonial Pipeline, which runs from Texas up the East Coast and delivers gas directly to Charlotte. The leak is causing a shortage of gas and higher costs at the pump.

Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama are also under a states of emergency.

McCrory signed an executive order Thursday temporarily waiving hours of service restrictions for fuel vehicles traveling in and through North Carolina. The move was aimed at helping prevent disruptions and backups at major fuel distribution hubs during the next several days as crews repair the Colonial Pipeline leak. He signed another executive order on Friday declaring the state of emergency.

McCrory wrote in a statement:

"We are working with state and national officials to make sure North Carolina is not impacted by this leak. This executive order will help protect our motorists from excessive gas prices and ensure an uninterrupted supply of fuel that is essential for the health, safety and economic well-being of businesses, consumers and visitors in North Carolina."

To check gas prices around the area, click here.

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