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Lingering effects possible as Colonial Pipeline resumes operations

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 6:38 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Officials say while there is not a widespread gasoline shortage, panic at the pump could potentially lead to one, leaving lingering impacts.

In Central Virginia, some gas stations are reporting some shortages, but the overall reserve supply across the Commonwealth is still able to address immediate supply concerns.

Federal and state agencies have waived certain measures to allow more supply to travel into Virginia, but some say impacts of the Colonial Pipeline shutdown could linger if the general public doesn’t start to work together.

“I can say that Monday or Tuesday we’ll be pretty on the way back to normal so long as people don’t keep filling up unnecessarily; wait until you get to a quarter of a tank,” said Michael O’Connor, President of the Virginia Petroleum & Convenience Marketers Association.

This is a plea many experts are making right now as gas stations continue to put bags over gas pump handles.

Gas Buddy reporting Wednesday evening roughly 49% of Virginia gas stations were without fuel.

“We don’t have a supply problem, we have a distribution problem,” O’Connor said. “The gallons are going to come - it’s just a question of when.”

A good number of gas stations in the metro area did get their tanks refilled overnight Wednesday into the day.

However, there is another problem – a shortage of truck drivers. That shortage mixed with the pipeline shutdown created a double whammy. Gas Buddy reporting there are not enough tanker truck drivers to carry the fuel to the stations.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s temporary fuel waiver and Governor Ralph Northam’s state of emergency hopes to curb that issue – helping boost supply across the Commonwealth.

“Right now they’re allowed to use trucks from other areas to bring fuel in,” said AAA spokesman Morgan Dean. “They’re also allowed to use barges and boats that are not normally part of this system. So they’re trying to do anything they can to get as much fuel out there as possible.”

In order for this all to go smoothly, everyone needs to work together.

“Don’t be surprised if there are residual effects after that where they’re still trying to get the product to different places and refilling,” Dean said.

“Of course, it’s going to take a little bit of time, but just the fact that people understand that we’re going to be back to normal; they have a full tank of gas and there’s not that need to go out and rush,” O’Connor added.

Meanwhile, the Colonial Pipeline announced Wednesday evening it has initiated the restart of its pipeline operations.

“Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal,” a news release said. “Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period. Colonial will move as much gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel as is safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal.”

Experts are asking drivers to fill up their tanks wisely and consolidate travel.

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