Shutdown of Ala. pipeline could raise Tenn. gas prices, cause shortages

Gas Pump Generic
(Photo: WKRN)

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The temporary shutdown of a major gas pipeline that serves the Southeast and East Cost has led to a state of emergency in both Alabama and Tennessee.

Colonial Pipeline Company says a leak was reported in what’s known as Line 1 after someone noticed the smell of gas last Friday in rural Shelby County, Alabama.

The pipeline is a major artery for the distribution of gas from Houston, Texas, all the way to New Jersey, and travels through 11 other states.

Map of Line 1 (Courtesy: Colonial Pipeline Company)
Map of Line 1 (Courtesy: Colonial Pipeline Company)

After the break was found, the company shut the line down to make repairs.

Officials say there could potentially be a decrease in gas supply in areas north of the repair site, which is located just below Birmingham.

Colonial Pipeline says states such as Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina “will be the first markets to be impacted by any potential disruption in supply.”

On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal saying the agency was relaxing environmental standards in specific Georgia and Tennessee counties through 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 15, in order to maintain the gas supply to those states.

The governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley, issued a state of emergency Thursday, which will free up resources to increase gas to the area.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Gov. Haslam issued an executive order to declare a state of emergency to waive federal restrictions on the hours of service for petroleum transporters. It will allow drivers to work longer hours to make sure petroleum is available to convenience stores, fuel retailers, and fuel wholesalers in Tennessee.

“This is a precautionary measure as we are not currently seeing any widespread unavailability of petroleum in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “We urge Tennesseans to maintain their normal fuel purchasing and driving patterns to help prevent any potential impacts on our fuel supply while the pipeline undergoes repairs.”

The company says Line 1 is expected to be repaired and restarted sometime next week. An exact date was not given.

Effects of pipeline shutdown on Tennessee

Officials in Tennessee say fuel wholesalers and convenience stores “are working around the clock to ensure that gas is available at pumps in our state.”

“While service from an Alabama pipeline has been disrupted, fuel wholesalers and retailers have contingency plans in place,” a statement continued.

Rob Ikard, President of the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association, told News 2 “measures have been taken to make sure that we have adequate supply in Tennessee.”

He told News 2 gas is being delivered to Nashville, and there may be temporary outages sporadically from one station to another.

“They are still able to go and pickup gas and bring it to the Nashville market, but tankers are having to drive a little bit farther to get it,” Ikard explained.

Mike Williams with the Tennessee Petroleum Council told News 2 that as demand for gas increases, prices are likely to go up, and if a price is higher for delivery, you’ll see those higher prices at the pump.

Williams also noted that it is a short-term situation.

Statement from MAPCO

Friday afternoon, MAPCO sent a press release saying they are aware some of its stores have experienced a shortage. The company says “the situation is primarily due to a supply problem on a third party pipeline system.”

MAPCO notes that it sources a portion of its fuel supply for its stores from this pipeline system.

“We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause our customers and are working to find alternative sources to supply our locations,” the company continued.

Effects on Kroger in Middle Tennessee

Kroger told News 2 about 30 stations across Middle Tennessee are without gas.

Spokeswoman Melissa Eads says deliveries are planned for those stores, though, with some getting deliveries Friday night and others Saturday morning.

Triple A

News 2 spoke with AAA, which said it does not expect widespread outages. Stephanie Milani echoed the possibility of occasional but limited outages of regular unleaded fuel.

AAA anticipates tanker trucks coming in from Memphis and Kentucky to help with supply shortages that do occur. Those trucks should be rolling into Nashville over the next few days.

The company also says gas in Tennessee is hovering around $2.01 per gallon with no significant increase in price over the last week.

Walmart

The corporate spokesman for Walmart told News 2 their gas supply in Middle Tennessee is tight, and they are monitoring the situation at all their locations.

Walmart will also look at other supply sources, if needed.

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