Gov. Bill Haslam issues state of emergency as a result of temporary pipeline shutdown
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam issued an executive order Friday waiving federal hours of service requirements for petroleum transporters. The goal of the order is to prevent any fuel supply disruptions for Tennesseans from the Colonial pipeline leak in Shelby County, Ala.
“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.”
Gov. Haslam’s executive order only relates to fuel transportation for this state of emergency. He waived rules related to hours-of-service suspensions, and pipeline repair and fuel transportation.
The emergency declaration will allow drivers to work longer hours to ensure petroleum is available to convenience stores, fuel retailers, and fuel wholesalers in Tennessee.
The Tennessee departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Insurance, Environment and Conservation, Safety and Homeland Security, Transportation, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, and private sector energy partners are monitoring the petroleum supply issue and collaborating to alleviate and address any petroleum disruptions in Tennessee.
On Wednesday, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation requested, and received, a fuel blend waiver from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), covering five counties in Middle Tennessee. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture then issued its own emergency waiver for fuel quality standards consistent with the EPA’s.
Consumers should maintain their normal fuel purchasing and driving patterns to avoid straining the supply of gasoline.
According to the Associate Press, the governors of Alabama and Georgia also lifted restrictions on the number of hours that fuel truck drivers can work, hoping to prevent gasoline shortages after a the shutdown of a leaking pipeline in rural Alabama. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley issued his order Thursday. The order remains in place for 30 days unless terminated. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued a four-day order on Wednesday. Deal on Friday extended the order for seven days.
Tennessee’s price gouging laws make it unlawful for individuals and businesses to charge unreasonable prices for essential goods and services including gasoline, food, ice, fuel, generators, lodging, storage space, and other necessities in direct response to a disaster regardless of whether that emergency occurred in Tennessee or elsewhere. The price gouging law makes it unlawful to charge a price that is grossly in excess of the price charged prior to the emergency.
This price gouging act is triggered when a disaster is declared by the state or by the federal government.
Penalties for violations of the price gouging act are up to $1,000 per violation. Additionally, the Tennessee Attorney General in conjunction with TDCI’s Division of Consumer Affairs can request that a court issue injunctions and order civil penalties of up to $1,000 for each violation. The state can also seek refunds for consumers.
Saturday afternoon, TEMA issued the following statement:
“We want to reassure Tennesseans there is petroleum available to meet the needs of consumers. Gov. Haslam’s emergency declaration issued on Friday ensures the transportation and delivery of petroleum to convenience stores and retailers in Tennessee.
Tennessee’s consumers need to maintain their normal driving and fuel buying habits. If consumers fill up unnecessarily, top off their tanks when they aren’t close to empty, and fill multiple containers at the pumps, then our petroleum retailers will not be able to keep up with the demand of the fuel supply. Even on a normal day, Tennessee’s petroleum industry as a whole would have a difficult time keeping up with the current demands being placed on Tennessee’s fuel supply.
The Colonial Pipeline is not the only supplier of petroleum to Tennessee. There are other pipelines contributing to the state’s fuel supply. Gov. Haslam’s executive order further aids in keeping fuel supplied to Tennessee as transporters have extra time to deliver to pumps. If consumers maintain their normal driving and fuel buying habits, there will be enough capacity in Tennessee’s petroleum supply system to meet our needs.”