LUMBERTON — An increase in the number of fuel tankers coming into North Carolina following the explosion of gasoline pipeline earlier this week seems to have headed off any immediate shortages in Robeson County. However, the problem may unfold this coming week as supplies dwindle.
The blast in Shelby County, Ala., which killed one worker and injured four others, has stopped the supply of gasoline from the Gulf Coast to the eastern United States via the pipeline since Monday. Colonial Pipeline Co. said in a statement late Thursday that is it is constantly reassessing the timeline for a restart but that its current projection is Sunday afternoon.
Bucky Miller, who supplies several local gas stations, was worried about this shortage being the same or worse than when there was a break in the Colonial pipeline in September. Miller spoke directly with those operating the pipeline’s local distribution point in Selma, N.C., Friday.
“Sunday is the day they are planning to start the pipeline back up, that’s also the day that most are predicting that we are going to be out. Bone dry,” the operator said. “We are one of the last stops on one of the last spurs. So, we kind of get the leftovers.”
The estimate from the Selma distribution center was that it would take three to 13 days for the fuel supply to resume at their end of the pipeline once it is operational again.
Around Robeson County, increases in price were seen this week, with a quick jump of around ten cents at many stations around Interstate 95 exits and along Fayetteville Road in Lumberton.
“I noticed the increase, but I was relieved it wasn’t more,” said William Oxendine Wednesday, filling up his truck at Sunoco on Fayetteville Road. “I heard about the latest problem with the pipeline and thought I’d better fill up before any big changes.”
To help counteract a break in service, Gov. Pat McCrory signed an executive order on Tuesday to waive certain state requirements and had an additional waiver approved by the state agriculture department to allow tanker trucks from outside the state to move more gasoline supplies into North Carolina.
“I am continuing to work with our emergency management team to closely monitor the situation in Alabama,”said McCrory. “I will continue to take every measure that is needed to minimize the impact of this disruption on North Carolina.”
McCrory said on Wednesday that gas from northern states, which normally is not allowed to be sold in North Carolina, will now be sold at pumps across the state. McCrory also said he’s approved the use of winter fuel supply, which normally begins to be sold in December, to be sold now.
“This waiver will allow for an increase in our gas supply that should not affect the quality or safety of fuel,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Gasoline products from northern states, which previously could not be sold in our state, can now be used at our pumps. What we are allowing is our winter fuel supply, which has different vapor pressure and normally is allowed for sale beginning in December, to be sold now.”
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