Friday, September 16, 2016

Gasoline leak from the Colonial Pipeline landed Alabama in a state of emergency.

Gas leak stokes fears of fuel shortage in NC

A potential gas shortage that could impact North Carolina. (WTVD)

By Tim Pulliam
Friday, September 16, 2016 07:28PM
RALEIGH (WTVD) -- North Carolina could be the next state in trouble after a gas leak from the Colonial Pipeline landed Alabama in a state of emergency.

The leak is centered in Helena, Ala., about a half-hour south of Birmingham. The gas line snakes right through North Carolina, though, in both Charlotte and Greensboro.

Public Safety and Emergency Management officials met Friday to review their fuel contingency plans just in case the situation gets worse. Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry released this statement:

Our first priority is maintaining public safety. To that end, we are asking first responders to double check their vehicles to ensure they have adequate fuel supplies on hand to run their operations. We've seen fuel disruptions like this before and want to reassure people that there's no need for alarm at this time.

AAA expects the Colonial Pipeline leak to raise gas prices anywhere from 5 to 20 cents.

Peace University college student Susannah Sykes said she is already feeling the gasoline pinch without the hike.

"All my money is going to gas, when it needs to be going to school," Sykes lamented.

The 250,000-gallon leak in the pipeline's primary artery was discovered last week.

"For the most part, what we are going to see is a juggling of our supplies," said Tamika Wright of AAA.

Motorists' gas budgets may need to be juggled as well -- at least temporarily, AAA says, as the markets adjust to the knee jerk reaction.

That possibility doesn't sit well with driver Chuck Hefren.

"I don't know if the company should really have the right to transfer the costs of their malfeasance to the consumer, so it bothers me intrinsically that way," Hefren said.

The pipeline is used to send gasoline from the Texas Gulf Coast to states in the southeast and along the east coast.

Colonial Pipeline is utilizing another pipeline to make up for some of the shortfall. Analysts say the perceived fuel shortage could drive up prices as early as Saturday.

"I don't think folks need to be scrambling to get gas, you know, we don't need to create a panic here." Wright said.

Experts say this leak happened at a good time. Gas supply domestically is abundant and the summer travel season is done.

Friday, the average price of gas in the Triangle was up one cent from the day before. The price Friday was six cents lower than it was on Sept. 16, 2015.

AAA estimates once the uncertainty is mitigated, gas prices will drop even lower.

"The good news is that while we may experience this temporary spike, if you will, we've already made the switch over in the Carolinas to the winter blend, which is a cheaper blend of fuel," Wright explained.

AAA says drivers should just brace themselves for the next few days, but prices could stabilize in a week or so.