The Colonial Pipeline cyberattack is causing gasoline shortages across the eastern U.S., as evidenced Tuesday by growing lines at the pump.
Gasoline stations in the mid-Atlantic and the South have been hardest hit, with some in states like North Carolina and Virginia running out of fuel.
In other states where reserves have not been depleted, drivers are seeing long lines and extensive wait times.
A CBS affiliate in South Carolina reported that drivers were forced to wait more than an hour for the opportunity to fuel their vehicles.
The situation results from a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, the nation’s largest pipeline refinery system, that left it paralyzed to deliver gasoline and other forms of energy.
Colonial, which runs a series of pipelines from Texas to New Jersey, is responsible for delivering 45% of all fuel consumed on the East Coast.
Ransomware attacks are typically carried out by criminal hackers who scramble data, paralyzing victim networks, and demand large payments to decrypt it.
The FBI assigned blame Monday in the Colonial attack to DarkSide, a criminal syndicate whose ransomware was used to snarl pipeline operations. The group’s members are Russian speakers, and the syndicate’s malware is coded not to attack networks using Russian-language keyboards. Russia has denied any involvement in the attack.
Although the matter is being investigated by federal law enforcement, it may take days for Colonial to restore its operation to full speed.
The shortages have also resulted in a rise in prices, according to some consumers. Local news outlets throughout the southeastern U.S. have reported that several gasoline stations have boosted prices.
At one station in North Carolina, in particular, consumers claimed the price of one gallon of gasoline had jumped from $2.69 to more than three dollars overnight.
In the meantime, both the federal government and its counterpart in the states are mobilizing to alleviate the existing gasoline shortages.
On Monday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency as lines formed at gas stations across the state. Mr. Cooper, a Democrat, suspended vehicle fuel regulations in hopes of freeing up access to gasoline.
“Today’s emergency declaration will help North Carolina prepare for any potential motor vehicle fuel supply interruptions across the state and ensure motorists are able to have access to fuel,” the governor said.
Likewise, the Biden administration is “evaluating every action” to “mitigate the impact as much as possible,” according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
The Environmental Protection Agency has already waived certain regulations, including those on vapor pressure, to bolster the supply of gasoline in Pennsylvania and the D.C. metropolitan region.
“As a result of the Colonial Pipeline shutdown, Administrator (Michael) Regan determined that extreme and unusual fuel supply circumstances exist and has granted a temporary waiver to help ensure that an adequate supply of gasoline is available in the affected areas until normal supply to the region can be restored,” the agency said.
Republicans in Congress, however, argue the White House needs to take stronger action to ensure the crisis does not occur again.
“Energy security is national security,” said Rep. August Pfluger II, Texas Republican. “This hack should serve as a wake up call for how vulnerable parts of the U.S. energy sector are to cyber terrorism.
Mr. Pfluger, whose congressional district lies within the Permian Basin — the largest oil- and gas-producing region within the U.S. — is a member of the House Homeland Security Committee. He serves as the ranking member of the panel’s intelligence and counterterrorism subcommittee.
The Texas Republican and several of his colleagues are calling for the administration to launch a broader investigation, not only into the causes of the Colonial hack, but also to determine future points of risk for the energy sector.
“We have to take care of our energy infrastructure,” said Mr. Pfluger. “If we don’t we’re going to see our quality of life hinder, think of how people are dependent on fossil fuels, people don’t know how to cook over an open fire anymore.”