ATLANTA - Georgians rushing to gas stations to fill their tanks worsened fuel shortages this week that began after a cyberattack shut down the Colonial Pipeline, Gov. Brian Kemp said Wednesday.
Around Gordon County, local supply was spotty throughout the week as some stations had full supply, others had a limited supply, and a number of stores closed their pumps completely.
“Only get the gasoline you need,” Kemp urged motorists during a mid-afternoon news conference at the state Capitol. “Please do not go out and fill up every 5-gallon tank you have. Doing so will only mean the shortage will last longer.”
The 5,500-mile pipeline that supplies almost half of the gasoline on the East Coast shut down last Friday after a ransomware attack that has been traced to hackers operating out of Russia or Eastern Europe. Colonial restarted the pipeline late Wednesday afternoon, but company officials said service won’t be fully restored for several days.
Meanwhile, panicking motorists have been lining up at gas stations to fill their tanks, resulting in some stations running out of fuel.
With pump prices on the rise, Kemp signed an executive order Tuesday suspending the collection of the state gasoline tax. The order also lifts the usual weight limits on fuel delivery trucks.
In a move to increase supplies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the state’s request to allow the sale of a blend of gasoline normally sold only during winter months. The state has a supply of winter-blend fuel in storage.
“We’re going to have this new product flowing quickly,” said state Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, whose agency oversees fuel quality control in Georgia.
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said his office has received more than 300 complaints of price gouging. The governor’s executive order prohibits price gouging, although pump prices have been edging higher during the last few days due to the higher costs of shipping fuel with the pipeline out of service.
“No one should be taking advantage of consumers trying to pursue their daily activities,” Carr said.
Kemp said there have been no cyber threats to the state’s computer systems in the wake of the ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline.
However, state agencies involved in cybersecurity – including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia Cyber Center and the Georgia Technology Authority – are working together on contingency plans for dealing with a threat should one occur, he said.
“We’re doing all we can to ensure if an attempt is made, our employees and agencies are well equipped to respond,” he said.