The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has outlined its efforts to help mitigate impacts of the May 7 ransomware cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline system.
As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s continuing assessment of the incident on fuel supplies for the East Coast and reported shortages in parts of the Southeast, the USDOT has been evaluating how the Department and its agencies can help, and released a statement on May 11 highlighting the response so far:
• The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is “canvassing rail operators to determine their capacity to help transport fuel from ports inland and if there are additional steps FRA could do to help them increase capacity to do this. They are also engaging industry to identify trends indicating capacity pressures.”
• USDOT has started the work needed to enable consideration of a “temporary and targeted waiver of the Jones Act.” The Jones Act, a section of the 1920 Merchant Marine Act, “requires merchandise being transported by water between U.S. points, even by way of foreign ports, to be shipped aboard vessels that are 1) U.S.-built 2) U.S.-citizen owned and 3) registered in the U.S.,” according to the Maritime Administration (MARAD).
MARAD has “initiated a survey of Jones Act-qualified vessels to begin the process of evaluating what assets are available in the Jones Act fleet to carry petroleum products within the Gulf, and from the Gulf up the Eastern Seaboard,” USDOT said. “This step is being taken to determine whether there is sufficient capacity on Jones Act-qualified vessels to carry the product and to determine if a waiver is warranted.”
The Department of Homeland Security has the authority to “receive requests for and to approve waivers to the Jones Act,” according to USDOT.
• The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is “taking steps to create more flexibility for motor carriers and drivers.” On May 9, it issued a temporary hours-of-service exemption that applies to those transporting gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other refined petroleum products to the District of Columbia and 18 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
“USDOT’s top priority is safety, and while current circumstances dictate providing industry flexibility, FMCSA will work closely with its state and industry partners to monitor driver work hours and conditions for the duration of the exemption,” the Department reported.
• FMCSA and the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) are tracking states that have issued emergency declarations—such as Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia—which have included weight waivers for trucks on state roadways. Those departments are working with “the full list of potentially effected states to share information and best practices and try to harmonize and align their efforts.”
• The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) assisted in Colonial Pipeline’s efforts to get Line 4 up and running May 10 “on a manual basis and is continuing to support efforts to ensure safe movement of fuels manually, while concurrent efforts to restore the system’s operation continues.”
Outreach to gather information on how USDOT and its agencies can assist is ongoing, the Department said.
Colonial Pipeline’s Latest Update (as of May 11, 5:15 p.m. ET)
“Colonial Pipeline continues to make forward progress in our around-the-clock efforts to return our system to service, with additional laterals operating manually to deliver existing inventories to markets along the pipeline. Markets experiencing supply constraints and/or not serviced by other fuel delivery systems are being prioritized. We are collaborating with the Department of Energy (DOE) to evaluate market conditions to support this prioritization.
“Since our pipeline system was taken offline, working with our shippers, Colonial has delivered approximately 967,000 barrels (~41 million gallons) to various delivery points along our system. This includes delivery into the following markets: Atlanta, Ga.; Belton and Spartanburg, S.C.; Charlotte and Greensboro, N.C.; Baltimore, Md.; and Woodbury and Linden N.J.
“Additionally, in preparation for our system restart, we have taken delivery of an additional 2 million barrels (~84 million gallons) from refineries for deployment upon restart.
“Consistent with our safety policies and regulatory requirements, Colonial has increased aerial patrols of our pipeline right of way and deployed more than 50 personnel to walk and drive ~5,000 miles of pipeline each day.
“Actions taken by the federal government to issue a temporary hours of service exemption for motor carriers and drivers transporting refined products across Colonial’s footprint and actions taken by several governors to lift weight restrictions on tanker trucks should help alleviate local supply disruptions. This is in addition to the Reid Vapor Pressure wavier issued today by the U.S. EPA that will also help alleviate supply constraints in several states serviced by our system. We would like to thank the White House for their leadership and collaboration in resolving this matter as well as the DOE, PHMSA, FERC and other federal agencies for their ongoing support.
“Our primary focus remains the safe and efficient restoration of service to our pipeline system, while minimizing disruption to our customers and all those who rely on Colonial Pipeline. We will continue to provide updates as restoration efforts progress.”