N.C. Gov. Cooper declares a State of Emergency over gas issue

On Thursday North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency over the current gas issue.

The Colonial Pipeline, which carries huge amounts of gasoline and other fuel between Houston and the East Coast, is shutting down after Hurricane Harvey forced the closure of refineries and some of the pipeline’s own facilities.

The pipeline has two main lines that together transport more than 100 million gallons of gasoline, heating oil and aviation fuel as far as the New York harbor each day.

The pipeline has its largest tank farm in Greensboro, N.C.

A release on the state’s website said Governor Cooper signed Executive Order No. 19 which declared a State of Emergency.

The order temporarily waives the cap on maximum hours of service restrictions for fuel vehicles traveling in and through North Carolina. The state sire said the order will help gasoline move in and through North Carolina easily and quickly in response to delivery problems cause by Hurricane Harvey.

“Hurricane Harvey’s damage to refineries in Texas and Louisiana could ripple throughout the southeast, causing gasoline shortages and rising prices,” Gov. Cooper said. “I’m taking action to make it easier to get gasoline into our state so North Carolinians who need gas can get it.”

Half of the 26 refineries that supply Colonial’s 5,500 miles of pipeline are located between Houston and Lake Charles, Louisiana.

“Once Colonial is able to ensure that its facilities are safe to operate and refiners in Lake Charles and points east have the ability to move product to Colonial, our system will resume operations,” the operator said. Power outages during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 forced the shutdown of parts of the Colonial Pipeline for several days. It also twice had to suspend services last year due to a leak and a fire.

Colonial noted that there are other ways of delivering fuel to limit the disruption to supply, including trucks, barges and other pipelines.

But pipelines are the safest and most cost effective way to move oil, gasoline, jet fuel and other petroleum products around the country. And in the massive underground interstate system that is the nation’s pipeline network, the Colonial Pipeline is I-95.

Earlier Wednesday, the largest oil refinery in the country started shutting down as Harvey, which has now weakened to become a tropical depression, caused more catastrophic flooding along the Gulf Coast.

Thirteen oil refineries have been shut down or are in the process of closing, while several others are operating at reduced rates. Altogether, the disruption has knocked out about a fifth of the nation’s refining capacity, according to S&P Global Platts.

That’s led to a spike in U.S. gasoline futures, which reflect wholesale prices and eventually trickle down to consumers.

After gaining 6% during the day Wednesday, gasoline futures jumped a further 7% in the evening to more than $2 a gallon.

Harvey’s impact on gasoline prices hasn’t made much of a difference to prices at the pump yet. But gas stations will eventually have to respond by raising prices for consumers, at least temporarily.

Experts say pump prices could take weeks to come back down to earlier levels.